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Rosalie Ham

‘In time and with water, everything changes,’ according to Leonardo da Vinci, who worked with Machiavelli on a strategic and ultimately doomed attempt to channel the flow of the Arno. Large-scale water management has had some notable successes in parts of Australia ...

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Watershed by Fabienne Bayet-Charlton & Summer at Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham

April 2006, no. 280

Fabienne Bayet-Charlton’s Watershed begins, ‘… such is the realm of water. It cradles yet suffocates. Warms and cools us. Sustains, nurtures and kills us.’ Indeed, the bonds and binaries of the element are central to this narrative – not simply the presence or lack of literal water, but also fierce emotional currents that threaten to submerge its main characters.

Set in contemporary South Australia’s Murraylands, Watershed centres on ex-champion swimmer Eve Buenetti, who is lost in a barren psychological terrain following the presumed drowning of her son, David. The novel also explores her husband Marconi’s response to the tragedy, and the tangled rivalry and sexual tensions between Eve, Marconi and his brother Victorio, the womanising town mayor. As in many explorations of rural communities, tangential storylines evolve, providing a break from the Eve–Marconi narrative and insight into other town dwellers, such as cryptic newcomer Jasmine.

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The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham & Black Hearts by Arlene J. Chai

October 2000, no. 225

Set in the 1950s in a tiny Australian country town called Dungatar, Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker explores the rippling effects of chaos when a woman returns home after twenty years of exile in Europe. Tilly Dunnage was expelled from Australia in a fog of hate and recrimination; her neighbours have never forgiven her for an act Tilly thought was predicated upon self-preservation, but others chose to see as manslaughter. Returning to look after her senile mother, Tilly sits in a ramshackle house atop a hill while the town people below bitch and snipe at her with rancorous glee. This is a story about loose lips and herd mentality bullying in a town where everybody knows your past. The dressmaking title refers to Tilly’s fabulous seamstress skills (she learnt the trade overseas). But even her ability to transform the frumpiest shapes into figures of grace does not mellow the unforgiving hearts of her neighbours.

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