Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 295 pp
British sculptor Barbara Hepworth wrote that ‘there is no landscape without the human figure’. Similarly, there is no human without the landscape in which they are situated, human and landscape mutually shaping, resisting and defining the other.
Three new Australian novels probe this interdependence, each of them concerned with the historical forces that have silenced and confined women, and each of them testing the capacity of their female characters to assert their stories, their selfhood, in the face of a hostile and unfamiliar landscape. Critically, what differentiates the novels is the degree to which their authors discover within these environments a similitude with their characters’ emotional struggle, the landscape not merely adorning the narrative but becoming essential to it.
Emily O’Grady follows up her 2018 Australian/Vogel’s award-winning début, The Yellow House, with Feast (Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 295 pp), an arresting gothic novel set in a remote Scottish manor house.
Alison, an agoraphobic film actress, bought the house for her mother, Frances, when the latter’s health began to deteriorate as a consequence of old age and dementia. Since Frances’s death, Alison has lived in the house with her partner, Patrick, a once-famous rock musician who now composes film scores. Their lives have fallen into a rhythm that is familiar, if not entirely smooth. There is a restlessness to their days that is aggravated by the sudden arrival of Neve, Patrick’s daughter. Determined to play the doting father, he plans an ostentatious eighteenth-birthday feast for Neve, even extending an invitation to Neve’s mother, Shannon, who lives in Australia.