Hachette Australia $27.99 pb, 256 pp
Inga Simpson’s second novel is set in the lush subtropical hinterland of Australia’s east coast. Jen, a reclusive artist, goes back to where she grew up and where her father was a timber-cutter, to find peace among the birds and trees. But mysteries and disappearances trouble her idyllic life.
Like her artist protagonist, Simpson has acute powers of observation and an ability to capture nature on the page. The vivid colours of rainforest birds and the intricate growth of forests, set to a soundtrack of birdsong, lulls the reader. However, the nesting theme threads together a narrative more fragile than compelling.
Simpson is an accomplished writer and excels, not only at natural descriptions, but at action and dialogue, which could have played a bigger part. What detracts from an otherwise fine novel is the use of truncated chapters, with confusing jumps in time from one scene to the next. The few dramatic events often seem suspended in time, without consequences. After being seriously injured in an accident, Jen is next seen hiking through rainforest and climbing trees without a twinge of pain.