The Life to Come
Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 384 pp, 9781760296568
Humans are narrative creatures. We tell stories to make sense of ourselves, but our stories – be they historical, political, fictional, or personal – shape us as much as we shape them. In the service of narrative expediency, we often sacrifice nuance. We turn chance to prophecy, and accidents into choices. We justify and excuse ourselves. We anoint heroes and villains. As novelist Michelle de Kretser warns, it is ‘frighteningly easy’ to turn the people around us into characters and to forget that: ‘The only life in which you play a leading role is your own.’ De Kretser’s new novel, The Life to Come, cleverly exposes the perils of narrative egocentrism by refusing to create a centre. Rather, she splits the book into five distinct sections that overlay rather than interconnect, and in which human complexity is privileged over narrative simplicity.