Unusually for literary fiction, Alice Robinson’s The Glad Shout opens right in the thick of the action:
Jostled and soaked, copping an elbow to her ribs, smelling wet wool and sweat and the stony creek scent of damp concrete, Isobel grips Shaun’s cold fingers and clamps Matilda to her hip, terrified of losing them in the roiling crowd.
Isobel and her family are escaping a terrible flood that has destroyed Melbourne. Holed up in a stadium – perhaps the MCG – Isobel has no idea what is left of her beachside home or whether there are any plans for anyone to help her or the hundreds of other evacuees now trying to survive amid the bleachers.
Although it has some of the trappings of speculative fiction – a fast-paced opening and a disastrous, dystopian future setting – it quickly becomes clear that The Glad Shout is a novel about families, or, more particularly, about mothers and daughters and their often-fraught relationships. Marooned in the stadium, Isobel grows increasingly angry with her husband, Shaun, for devoting himself to good works among the evacuees, rather than to protecting his wife and three-year-old daughter. The disaster only emphasises a feeling she’s had ever since their child was born:
She wishes that he had more time to pursue his passions, that he was free to spend days writing and reading and getting out to volunteer with the charity … but now they have Matilda it seems those days are behind them … At the same time she longs to shake him. What on earth did you expect our lives would be like?