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Chloe Hooper

An interview with Chloe Hooper

by Australian Book Review
May 2022, no. 442

Chloe Hooper is the author of The Arsonist: A mind on fire and The Tall Man: Death and life on Palm Island and two novels, A Child’s Book of True Crime and The Engagement. Her most recent book is Bedtime Story.

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A father sits on a couch that is set between the beds of his young sons, who must be eased into sleep with a story. The scene is illuminated by a lamp in the shape of the globe, which is as it should be, for he shows them his world through the simple patterns of these stories: his cherishing of the natural world; his insight into happy reversals of fortune; his humour. The father’s stories are spellbinding, reassuring the children and also their mother, who tells herself that no harm can come to this man in the middle of a tale. She is reminded of the old motif from the Thousand and One Nights, where the storyteller wards off death with a gripping narration.

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The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper & Gone For A Song by Jeff Waters

September 2008, no. 304
Chloe Hooper has written an insightful and intensely personal book about the death of an Aboriginal man in police custody on Palm Island off Townsville in north Queensland. In late 2004, Cameron Doomadgee, aged thirty-six, died after being arrested by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley ... ... (read more)

The language we use to describe fire, Chloe Hooper points out, gives it a creaturely shape: it has flanks, tongues, fingers, a tail. It licks, it devours. Fascinated by its mythic force, we talk about taming a fire as we talk about taming a beast, but when it comes to vast tracts of bush ...

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The first time The Engagement’s narrator, Liese Campbell, sees the family homestead owned by her lover, Alexander Colquhoun, she is struck by its imposing physical presence: ‘We turned a corner … The second storey came into view: eight upstairs windows and each chimney intricate as a small mausoleum.’ As she surveys the isolated Victorian mansion, with its English driveways and gardens, she realises that it has ‘been built precisely so one would feel at its mercy’.

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One morning in 2004, an Aboriginal man named Cameron Doomadgee was arrested for swearing at a police officer; forty-five minutes later he lay dead on the floor of his cell. Something had gone badly wrong, though the white senior sergeant on duty, the towering Chris Hurley, denied he was in any way at fault.

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A Children's Book of True Crime by Chloe Hooper & Regret by Ian Kennedy Smith

April 2002, no. 240

These two novels can be read as intelligent manipulations of the crime genre, exploring the inarticulacies as well as the betrayals, real or imagined that can precipitate acts of violence. Chloe Hooper’s impressive début, A Child’s Book of True Crime, explores, in her words, ‘the twilight space between childhood and adulthood’. The means for interrogating this porous and ambiguous zone include a primary school teacher complicit in her own infantilisation, school children with steadier insights and clarity than their teacher, a faux children’s story narrating the details of a gruesome murder, and adults participating in games of emotional brinkmanship that their children would probably play as variants of ‘chicken’. Regret, by contrast, is more concerned with the isolation that occurs once the growing up ostensibly has occurred. While Chloe Hooper is at the beginning of a career with the potential to produce exceptional work, the experienced Ian Kennedy Smith is the more accomplished storyteller with Regret.

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