A Long Way Home
Penguin, $14.95 pb
Who does this book think it is? Fiction or autobiography, for teenagers or adults? Every book has an idea of its own identity, established by its author, editor, and publisher, and proclaimed through its cover, the style and form of the text, and the accompanying publicity. A Long Way Home seems to suffer from an identity crisis.
The author blurb advises us that it is a ‘novel for adults’ (as opposed to the author’s earlier work for children and teenagers). Not only that, it is a ‘work of autobiographical fiction’. Yet the cover suggests (through non-verbal signals) that this may be a book for teenagers: its soft watercolour illustration is strongly representational, in a style favoured for sub-adult books in the 1970s and 1980s. You can almost see the training wheels. Below the illustration, a line of text – ‘Where do you belong when your past is in another place?’ – offers another almost offensively clear signpost to guide the reader between the covers.