The Lost Swimmer, Ann Turner

the-lost-swimmer-9781925030860_lgThis was one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a specific genre. It was part love story, part thriller, and part vague foray into the wind swept Australia coast. While the characters didn’t grab me, I was definitely captivated by the landscape and the ‘Australian-ness’ of things … this was a solid element of the narrative from the novel’s opening:

“The sand was washed clean today,stretching wide at low tide. I ran along the glistening shore thinking of something I’d read last night: that you could travel a thousand miles and never notice anything. I suspected that this was as false now as when it was written by a Greek philosopher in the 5th century BC. Surely powers of observation would eventually take hold?”

More fascinating was the certain savagery that lay beneath the fine ebb and flow of this narrative. The story of the lost swimmer was one example of this, but more intriguing is the violent incident between the protagonist’s dog, Big Boy, and a resident kangaroo called Bonnie. I found myself captivated by this violence, unsure of its metaphorical significance. It’s worth citing part of this incident just to illustrate the dramatic nature of the exchange.

Without warning, Big Boy came racing through the thickening gloom and went straight for the kangaroos. In one swift movement he snapped the joey between his massive jaws. Instinctively Bonnie whipped back on her tail and struck Big Boy with her powerful hind legs. Big Boy leaped away, not taking the full force, but refusing to let go of the joey, who was emitting a thin, high-pitched squeal. Bonnie attacked again, boxing forward and scratching deeply with needle-sharp front claws. Big Boy buckled, yelping in pain, momentarily releasing the joey. Blood flowed everywhere, a dark gelatinous river emanating from the joey mingling with the brighter blood of the injured dog, who now, ignoring pain and reason, attacked the joey again, plucking him up and running away.”

What ensues is devastating and raw and extremely confronting and I can only think that Turner is trying to create some sort of metaphorical parallel between the personal tragedy about to afflict her protagonist and this incident.

In short, an interesting example of good quality Australian fiction.

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