Melinda Harvey reviews 'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

Melinda Harvey reviews 'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

Questions of Travel

by Michelle de Kretser

Allen & Unwin, $39.95 hb, 528 pp, 9781743311004

In Overland back in 2006, Ken Gelder singled out Michelle de Kretser’s first novel, The Rose Grower (1999). as evidence of a contemporary Australian literature in crisis. Its foreign and historical setting, horticultural fetish, focus on private manners and primped prose, he argued, flaunted a rarefied and élitist aesthetics that wanted nothing to do with the ‘political realities’ of ‘ordinary life’. With Questions of Travel, it is as if de Kretser is responding to this charge. This is a novel whose ambitions, which are considerable, are driven by a desire to engage with, not retreat from, both the wider world and the common reader. What we have here is a quite different type of Australian literary novel from the one that Gelder identified, though one that seems to be gaining ascendancy – one that is less arch, more cosmopolitan, and more seriously engaged with the larger events and problems of our times.

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Melinda Harvey

Melinda Harvey

Melinda Harvey is a Melbourne-based book critic. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including Australian Book Review, the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Literary Review, and the Canberra Times. She has a PhD in English from the University of Sydney and has lectured on literature there and also at ANU, RMIT, Monash University, and the European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin. These experiences have provided much fodder for a campus novel that she hopes to write by the time she’s seventy-one (and she thanks Mary Wesley for this kindly benchmark).

Published in October 2012 no. 345

Comments (1)

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    Doing a bit of swatting for book club. Yes the review sums up many truths about how and why the book is written. But there is still a gaping holes in the book. As the reader is not pulled into relating or identifying with any of the characters. So in effect daringly poetic prose is useless without any connection.

    Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:48 posted by Jenny Esots

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