This is one of those incredibly intriguing books that seems to resonate long after the last page has closed. I don’t think it’s a book that I would have ordinarily read, but I have so enjoyed textpublishing’s crop of books that I was inspired to read this one. (Those of you who follow my blog will know about my general aversion to all things related to Australian literature!)
Blue Skies is a magnificently written book. The sense of place that Hodgman facilitates is awe-inspiring, her appreciation of tones of light and shades of colour easily transport readers into a whole other world. But, while there is a magic to this world, it is tinged with an absurdity that seems to me to be characteristic of someone suffering from depression or some other illness.
The protagonist in this story is a young woman who seems to have literally stumbled upon her role as wife and mother after a romp in the back seat of her mother in law’s car. She appears to be mostly detached from her daughter and incapable of creating anything of her life inside her house, near the sea. She spends seemingly endless hours staring out the window, watching her neighbour try and cultivate grass in the dry Tasmanian sand, or sleeping until she has lost all sense of time. She is an incredibly disturbing character, and a believable one to boot. Her entire presence in this text is as an outsider – she is outside her world, watching from afar – and the book opens with the line: “I’d watched it from the beginning.” The watching mostly occurs as a form of absence from the action – she watches from inside, through the door, from the hill, through the window. She is rarely a part of events and when she is, it is in a very detached, lost manner. But, I think that this will make her more real and more appealing for most readers.
Without spoiling the story, I will tell you that ironically, the minor characters in this tale – think of them as Tuesday and Thursday, or Jonathan and Ben, whichever you prefer – are entrenched in all sorts of illicit action … in fact, even the bus driver gets some action in this narrative! There are scenes here of outrageousness that struck me as wonderfully juxtaposed to the protagonist’s quietude.
This is definitely a book to be read!