Fabulous Fiction Firsts #601: Spotlight on Australian Fiction
In Antonia Hayes' debut novel Relativity, nerdy, bookish and a ready target for bullies, 12 year-old Ethan Forsythe is obsessed with physics and astronomy. Raised by Claire, a single-mother who gave up her career as a ballerina, Ethan is increasing curious about his father whose identity Claire refuses to disclose.
When a seizure sends Ethan to the hospital, they discover his remarkable abilities might be related to a previous brain injury suffered as an infant that sent his father, Mark to prison. Meanwhile, Mark, who tries to rebuild his life in the far-reaches of Western Australia, is back in Sydney, to attend to his dying father who is asking to see Ethan, his only grandson. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that—like gravity—pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.
"With a heart-wrenching plot and a style reminiscent of Jodi Picoult, this is an excellent novel with deep characterization and powerful imagery.” -Library Journal
2014 winner of the Colin Roderick Award, and set in the remote coastal town of Thirroul at the end of WWII, The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay is the story of Anikka "Ani" Lachlan, a transplant from Scotland who is trying desperately to make a home for herself and her 11 year-old daughter Isabelle.
After her husband, the railway-man Mac(kenzie) was killed in an accident while on the job, Ani was given the job as the librarian in the railway's lending library. Returning to settle at Thirroul are Roy McKinnon and Dr. Frank Draper, childhood friends who for years, have vacationed at this idyllic spot with their families. McKinnon, a published poet has lost his words from his battlefield experience; while Draper who could not reconcile with his inability to save the 550 prisoners in one of Hitler's concentration camps, has turned bitter and sardonic. They soon find refuge in the library, and gradually a friend in Ani.
Over the course of a year, with Ani as his muse, Roy manages to write again. His first poem is an anonymous offering to Ani, who mistakes it for a hidden birthday gift from Mac. Despite the promise of a new publisher, Roy's despondency grows as Ani never acknowledges the gift. Frank fares better, being taken in hand by Roy's patient and take-charge sister, Iris.
"Multilayered, graceful, couched in poetry, supremely honest, gentle yet jarring, Hay’s thought-provoking novel pulls you along slowly, like a deep river that is deceptively calm but full of hidden rapids. Much to ponder." -Kirkus Reviews
Readers interested in the Australian setting might enjoy (the film adaptation of) Peter Carey's Oscar & Lucinda; the winner of the 2001 Orange Prize - The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville; The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (a soon-to-be released feature film); and Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany.