Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 278 pp, 9781760113933
‘How did you even begin to fit two adult lives together so that they happily resembled a whole?’ Jonathan Lott, the main character in Susan Johnson’s tenth novel, asks himself. It is giving little away to say that by book’s end there are no definitive answers. But Jonathan’s attempts to make sense of his wife Sarah’s defection from their decades-long marriage are at the core of The Landing. Here is one Lott who tries hard not to look back, and sometimes fails.
Jonathan is not isolated in his aloneness, his questioning and questing. Penny Collins is divorced from her ‘reliably negative ex-husband’, Pete, who has returned to live nearby after spending six months in Paris. Penny lives next to Rosanna Raymond, who is also alone after her husband, Paul, took up with Penny’s then nineteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, with whom he has fathered two children. And Anna, daughter of retired GP and one-time ‘pants man’ Gordie, has returned from Britain to The Landing after her fourth marriage ended. The much abandoned and put-upon Penny does have the company of her mother, Marie – also alone after losing her beloved husband many years before, still attractive in her late eighties, and whose French background has long seen her lording it over provincial Australians and Penny in particular. It all sounds a bit Last Days of Chez Nous, or like French farce, but the novel is filled with characters who have failed to remain part of ‘a whole’.