Paul Dalgarno’s fiction début, Poly, charts a romp through the romantic and sexual lives of married couple Chris and Sarah Flood. When the sexual intimacy in their relationship dies, Sarah opts to sleep with, as Chris describes it, ‘all but the worst of Melbourne’s walking wounded’, and takes her woebegone husband along for the proverbial ride. A reluctant Chris eventually finds his polyamorous feet with the understanding artist Biddy. True to the logistics of polyamorous lives, almost the entire book is in the form of communication – either conversations between lovers and friends or Chris’s internal machinations (the story is told from his perspective). Indeed, Poly might well be a masterclass in how to write dialogue.
The realisation that our parents are not exactly who we understood them to be can be a profound rite of passage. For some it comes with no forewarning: a random event leads to an accidental disclosure, or substantiates an old rumour. For others this realisation takes shape in a less acute though no less transformative manner. With The Other Side of Absence: Discovering my father’s secrets, Betty O’Neill pieces together her family history in an effort to learn more about her father, a stranger she briefly encountered when she was nineteen. What began as an innocuous exercise at a writers’ retreat would evolve into a three-year research project through which the author uncovers the riveting story of Antoni Jagielski – resistance fighter, Holocaust survivor, unsettled postwar migrant, and absent father.
What tethers you to your life? For most people it is the filaments of connection – family, place, friends, work. Hayley Katzen becomes untethered in multiple ways in this engaging and highly readable book. Many will identify with that period of life when you are technically a functioning adult, but there remains a long, long journey ahead to real adulthood. Katzen has a sevenfold whammy: a broken family life; the trauma of immigration; losing her Jewish heritage; discovering herself as a lesbian; dropping out of a career; moving to the country; and falling in love with an ‘unsuitable’ woman.
Half a century ago, the Palestinian writer Edward Said described the state of exile as ‘the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home’. Its essential sadness, he believed, was not surmountable. The crippling sorrows of exile and estrangement ...