The Hummingbird Effect
Scribner, $32.99pb, 320 pp
Spellbinding, genre-defying, and powerful in its vision of the future, Kate Mildenhall’s third novel, The Hummingbird Effect, interweaves four matrilineal narratives that span the years 1933 to 2181. Set in Footscray and its surrounds, including the Meatworks, Sanctuary Gardens Aged Care, and a futuristic Forest/Inlet/Island, the novel explores the central concern of ‘unmaking the world’ in order to ‘begin again’.
Mildenhall alludes to Aldous Huxley’s famous novel in evoking a ‘brave new world indeed’ at the end of the first long chapter, and through her exploration of entropic machinery, controlled reproduction, and tropes of desire and consumption. Mildenhall’s stark postcolonial ecofeminist lens gives the narrative its dark urgency and places women at the forefront of change. Indeed, in the short poetic chapters that bookend the novel, women’s voices are a river in the ‘Upstream, downstream, timestream of always’. The endless flow of water and its many cadences prioritise the natural world over technological advancement and invoke the sublime as essential to humility.