Anthony Lynch reviews 'The True Colour of the Sea' by Robert Drewe

Anthony Lynch reviews 'The True Colour of the Sea' by Robert Drewe

The True Colour of the Sea

by Robert Drewe

Hamish Hamilton, $29.99 hb, 212 pp, 9780143782681

Robert Drewe’s first short story collection, the widely acclaimed The Bodysurfers (1983), opens with a story of the Lang family – children Annie, David, and Max, taken by their recently widowed father for a Christmas Day lunch at a local hotel, where it becomes apparent that their father is on intimate terms with the hotel manageress.

This lunch, the desultory aftermath with the children left waiting in the hotel carpark, is recalled in Drewe’s fourth and latest collection, The True Colour of the Sea. ‘Imaginary Islands’ sees David Lang, older now than his father was in the earlier story, remembering this sad lunch while he waits for his own children and grandchildren near the same beachside hotel on a Christmas Eve forty-nine years later. It is a wry, tender portrait of ageing, the one-time boy morphing into a version of his father through misjudged attempts at bonhomie, slowly becoming an anachronism while holding on to moments of tenderness and transcendence.

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Anthony Lynch

Anthony Lynch

Anthony Lynch lives on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, where he writes poetry, fiction, and reviews. His work has appeared in The Age, The Best Australian Poems, Island, and Southerly. His short story collection Redfin (2007) was shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. His poetry collection Night Train was published in late 2011 by Clouds of Magellan. He is publisher at the independent publishing house Whitmore Press and an editor at Deakin University.