The Salt Madonna
Picador, $32.99 pb, 368 pp
From the mainland, the fictional Chesil Island appears to float on the horizon. Perched above its bay, a statue of the Virgin Mary spreads its arms, its robes ‘faded and splintered by salt’. This icon of the miraculous and maternal, crafted from trees and symbolic of the invasion and settlement of Indigenous land, is imposing and worn, revered and neglected.
The sometimes-narrator of Catherine Noske’s potent début novel is Hannah Mulvey, who was raised on the island but left to finish school on the mainland. Her narrative is like the salt-worn Madonna’s presence. Like the statue, it is a faded, uncertain imposition.