Dreaming of Amelia
Pan Macmillan, $16.95 pb, 520 pp
Welcome to Moriarty country. This is our fourth visit to Ashbury High, in New South Wales, which is peopled with smart, sassy teenagers given to commenting on their lives and those of their friends, family, and teachers in many modes and many (far too many this time) words. Moriarty has been tracking three of these private-school girls since Year Nine. Now they are tackling Year Twelve.
Meet Emily Melissa-Anne Thompson: ‘The plot thickens! (Which is very gothic of it.) … Lightning struck! There was a howling wind, as if wolves roamed about, howlingly.’ And Lydia Jaackson-Oberman: ‘You know the expression on the gothic villain’s face? The scene where he wants the heroine to sign away her fortune (plus her hand in marriage and the life of her favourite puppy dog)?’ And Cassie, who has no narrative role here, though we hear from her via email.
Moriarty frames, scatters, sends up, and pretty well spooks what is essentially a school story with Gothic elements, as above. Why? Because these students are all taking the elective Gothic Fiction and preparing for the following exam question: ‘Write a personal memoir which explores the dynamics of first impressions. In your response, draw on your knowledge of gothic fiction.’
Another main character, the unhappy Tobias Mazzerati, appeared in The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie (2006). Here, he adds a different voice and dimension as he labours over an essay with deeply Gothic features about an Irish convict lad, Tom Kincaid, whose sad history and involvement in an uprising play out on the blasted heath of the Castle Hill of yore. Castle Hill is where the exclusive Ashbury High is located, and there are some links to the past. Another strand – almost a running gag – through Dreaming of Amelia is the complex subject of black holes. Here is Tobias’s take on this: