In his 2017 essay ‘Notes for a Novel’, illuminatingly added as a kind of afterword at the end of this book, Steven Carroll recalls a dream that he had twenty years ago. It was this dream, he says, that grew into a series of novels centred on the Melbourne suburb of Glenroy, a series of which this novel is the sixth and last. It was
a vivid dream about my old street in Glenroy where I grew up. In the dream my father (who is now dead), my mother and I were standing on the street … it was a Saturday night in 1957 … We all had our best clothes on … The vividness and the urgency of the dream prompted a novel that, over three drafts, eventually became The Art of the Engine Driver .
With four more novels in between, set at various times over the twentieth century but always featuring the same three main characters – Vic, Rita, and Michael, a father, a mother, and a son – Carroll has chosen with this final novel in the series to return to the beginning of the story, to the conception and birth of Vic the engine driver in the terrible year of 1917.