Cloudless: A Novel in Verse
UWA Publishing, $24.99 pb, 180 pp, 9781742587561
Cloudless is the first verse novel from Christine Evans, a Australian playwright now resident in Washington, D.C., where she is a member of faculty at Georgetown University. Set in Perth in the 1980s, after 'the late seventies / when Bondy ruled the roost', but twenty years prior to the mining boom, Cloudless relates the story of eight characters whose lives intersect at Beatty Park, 'a chlorine palace filled with pools'. The disinfected paradise, paired throughout with the gleaming city, protects none of the characters against a variety of sullying effects, and worse.
Of the narratives running through the novel it is the story of Sally Jo, Jerome, and Auntie that is the most affecting. Auntie has '(c)ome down with the little fella on the bus', bringing Jerome from Geraldton to Perth in search of his mother, Sally Jo: 'It's hard being down here in the city / on a mission by herself / with Sally Jo's kid to look after / specially the way they look at blackfellas here / even an old lady with respect back home – / an Auntie.' The history of racism is present in that loaded word, 'mission'; Auntie has set herself an assignment (to find Sally Jo), but to achieve this end she has had to leave her community – her culture – to operate in a mangle of assimilation and trivialisation; the prevailing sense is of entrenched social disadvantage and individual tragedy.