The True Colour of the Sea
Hamish Hamilton, $29.99 hb, 212 pp, 9780143782681
Robert Drewe’s first short story collection, the widely acclaimed The Bodysurfers (1983), opens with a story of the Lang family – children Annie, David, and Max, taken by their recently widowed father for a Christmas Day lunch at a local hotel, where it becomes apparent that their father is on intimate terms with the hotel manageress.
This lunch, the desultory aftermath with the children left waiting in the hotel carpark, is recalled in Drewe’s fourth and latest collection, The True Colour of the Sea. ‘Imaginary Islands’ sees David Lang, older now than his father was in the earlier story, remembering this sad lunch while he waits for his own children and grandchildren near the same beachside hotel on a Christmas Eve forty-nine years later. It is a wry, tender portrait of ageing, the one-time boy morphing into a version of his father through misjudged attempts at bonhomie, slowly becoming an anachronism while holding on to moments of tenderness and transcendence.