Fiona Gruber reviews 'Wedding Bush Road' by David Francis

Fiona Gruber reviews 'Wedding Bush Road' by David Francis

Wedding Bush Road

by David Francis

Brio Books $29.99 pb, 288 pp, 9781925143331

Wedding Bush Road is a novel about contrasts and conflicts: new-age America versus an old-fashioned Australia; messy rural versus shipshape urban; high status versus low; the past versus the present.

Expat Daniel Rawson is a successful lawyer in Los Angeles. He has been tempered by seven years of ‘California dreaming’; life is good. His graceful girlfriend, Isabel, practises Kundalini yoga and reflexology. As the novel opens, we find the couple in a cabin in a canyon, cosily holed up for the Christmas holidays. All is mindful and embracing. Daniel has been planning to propose to her. From the outset, however, we also know that this idyll has already cracked, the mirrored perfection is already tarnished. There has been a phone call from across the ocean, a siren call from the parched landscape of the past; it is Ruthie, Daniel’s aged mother, down on the family horse farm in the flatlands of South Gippsland. She’s had a fall and, she tells him, will be ‘dead as Dickens by the end of the year’. Time to book the Qantas flight.

Ruthie’s vivid turns of phrase are jarringly fresh and direct compared to the more elegiac thoughts of her only child, as he arrives back home after years away. ‘I get my bag and roll it along the bluestone path to the big house. The long veranda striped by the shadows of the cypress trunks in the late afternoon, the lawn all but dead save for capeweed, the garden thirsty but overgrown.’ The ‘Toovareen Estate’ sign on the gate is drooping, the old homestead, once gracious, is spavined, and there is a burnt-out Mitsubishi in the middle of the bleached paddock.

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Published in March 2017, no. 389
Fiona Gruber

Fiona Gruber

Fiona Gruber is a journalist and producer with twenty years experience writing and broadcasting across the arts as a commentator, profile writer, and reviewer. She currently divides her time between Australia and the UK.

Gruber's work has appeared in The Australian, The Times Literary Supplement, Australian Book Review, The Guardian, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Opera Now, History Today, and Art World Australia.

Her profiles of well-known writers and playwrights include John Banville, Margaret Drabble, Simon Callow, Marina Warner, A. L. Kennedy, Francis Wheen, Michelle de Kretser, Toni Jordan, David Francis, Jane Smiley, Angus Trumble, Chris Womersley, David Harrower, Richard Bean, Jez Butterworth, and Moisés Kaufman.

For ABC Radio National alongside sporadic appearances as an opinionated commentator on hot topics, Gruber has made a series of features on writers, artists, theatre makers, and explorers for The Book Show, Books and Arts Daily and Hindsight. These include artists John Wolseley and Vera Möller, writers Robert Macfarlane, Patricia Cornelius, Charlotte Wood, Francis Wheen and Alex Miller, actor Lisa Dwan, and explorer John Helder Wedge.

Gruber also worked for ABC TV as a researcher and producer on its Sunday Arts program.

She produced and hosted The Opening a live-to-air weekly radio arts show on PBSFM between 2003–10, notable for its mix of the very local with the rather famous. And in 2011 she was a regular on ABC 774 talking arts with veteran presenter Derek Guille.

Gruber received a Green Room Award in 2005 for co-founding and hosting ‘Gert's Sunday Salon’, a raffish arts and cabaret club in Melbourne’s Fitzroy.

In 2013 Fiona Gruber started a series of podcasts for the Melbourne Theatre Company which explore ideas around the plays on stage, the wider world of theatre, and the even wider world influencing stage selection.

Alongside her journalism she's currently finishing off a biography of nineteenth-century Australian entrepreneur Alice Cornwell: Victorian gold miner, proprietor of the London Sunday Times, and breeder of miniature black pug dogs.

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