Spinifex, $24.95pb, 210 pp
There is little doubt that few people write letters anymore. Nowadays, personal communication is conducted via e-mails and mobile phone messages, much to the dismay of manuscript collectors and researchers. So, it is surprising to come across what the publishers describe as ‘a novel in letters’, Parachute Silk, by Gina Mercer.
Samuel Richardson, whose Pamela (1742), also in epistolary form, was one of the forerunners of the modern novel, wrote in defence of his method that ‘the letters are written while the hearts of the writers must be supposed to be wholly engaged in their subjects (the events at the time dubious), so that they abound not only with critical situations, but with what may be called instantaneous descriptions and reflections’. Clearly, he had stumbled on a significant point (which would eventually lead to the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique) but also one that could advantage the novelist engaged in writing what we once might have termed a ‘women’s’ novel.