Kathryn Heyman’s novel, Storm and Grace, joins the recent proliferation of fiction by Australian women that deals with intimate partner violence. Like Zoë Morrison’s Love and Freedom (2016), it depicts the development of an increasingly troubled and ultimately violent marriage, over the course of which a woman loses her sense of self. Like Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things (2015), it is an indictment of the complicity of the media and other forms of representation – film, chick lit, ‘[a]ll that Fifty Shades shit’ – in setting standards of women’s behaviour, especially as it pertains to romantic love.
What distinguishes Storm and Grace is its narrative voice and reliance upon mythological forms of storytelling. This book is about the stories we tell ourselves and others. As such, it comprises layers of – often conflicting – narrative. On the surface, this is the story of free-diver Storm Hisray (the ‘deepest man in the world’) and marine biology student Grace Cain, who meet and instantly fall in love. In response to Storm’s plea that she ‘live deep’ with him, Grace abandons her studies in Sydney and travels to an idyllic Pacific island where they live and dive together.