Ceremony at Lang Nho
McPhee Gribble, $14.95
It would not be unreasonable, given the title and the cover (saffron-tinted, showing a vaguely Buddha-like image overlaid with helicopter gunships) to expect Ceremony at Lang Nho to be about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Well, we all know about judging books by their covers, don’t we? The image is no Buddha, but an elaborate twelfth-century European beehive, and the helicopter gunships are themselves overlaid by little golden bees. And the true battleground of this novel is not Vietnam but the family and the individual psyche.
The main character and narrator is Fiona, a photographer touching forty. You could say she is having a midlife crisis, I suppose, but that term is so often used pejoratively. Fiona has reached a point in her life where she can either stand still and let the rank thickets of her past grow ever denser, strangling her, or she can fight to clear a path, to find clear ground where she is able to grow, work, and love.