For Orla, Living In The Suburbs In On The Cusp Of Adolescence, Her Father Is A Great Shining Light, Whose Warm And Powerful Presence Fills Her World But In The Aftermath Of His Sudden Death, Orla, Her Mother And Her Sister Are Left In A No An S Land, A Place Where The Rights And Protections Of The Nuclear Family Suddenly And Mysteriously No Longer Apply, And Where The Path Between Girl And Woman Must Be Navigated Alone This is a book to be read carefully as every word is important and not to be skimmed Action happens in the blink of an eye and is over just as quickly It left me almost breathless There were moments where the writing made it hard to understand exactly what was going on, but I think that s the point Children often understand than adults give them credit for, but that doesn t make life any less confusing for them In her acknowledgments Marcella Polain writes it s not clear to me how or why adults forget what it is like to be a child don t we all carry our child selves within but believing that children don t have a complex interior life worthy of respect must serve something I have pondered this question before and this book really brought it back to the surface Why do we forget that children have complex interior lives As this book covered so much and at some points scared me as much as any thriller, it is firmly in first place as the best book I have read this year so far I read it slowly hungry for the next paragraph and constantly amazed at the beauty of the writing If this doesn t make it on my best books of 2019 list I will be incredibly surprised Thank you to the publishers for sending me this wonderful book to review via my blog They go to work and they don t come back Everywhere there are cracks in the world that other people can t see The story takes place in Perth, Australia 1968 and one day Orla s father Dan, a shining sun in her world, doesn t come home With his death, everything changes for Orla, her little sister Deebee and their mother Henrietta The world becomes a threatening place without the protection of a father, there is nothing left to save them, financial hardship is that much heavier a weight, and as their father s thoughts fade, the last are those of shame as the reader is privy to his regrets, that he left his wife nothing, that he is so sorry The novel flows between memories and the aftermath of the shift in their family structure Before, there are problems, they aren t able to stay in their house in the hills, the money isn t coming in Her parents must leave the hills for a cheaper living situation, they move to the only for a year house , but another house will be built No longer surrounded by the vast wilderness, closer to the beach but in a suburban setting they are closer to neighbors People that are better left unknown, those you avoid Their mother works weekends to help them stay afloat, until the death of their father makes the neighbors people to rely upon, when there is no one else There are to be no riding lessons for Orla, who has a head full of horses, which the family couldn t really afford while her daddy was alive, but how could he deny his girl such a desperate desire Left with their mother, who has always been far less patient with the children, missing the father who never shouted they are all vulnerable to the threats out there in the big bad world There is never true closure for Orla and Deebee, without the finality of a funeral as the girls weren t allowed to go Orla is sure her daddy will return, like a moth to a light, despite the visit from the reverend assuring her God only takes the best first Orla isn t quite a teenager yet, still a little girl awakening to grown up things, and of course far less sheltered after she loses her father The author did a wonderful job of getting into a young girls mind, everything is murky when you re young It s like trying to understand words while swimming underwater Nothing is fully explained, nor fully grasped when you are not quite developed in body and mind But you sure grow up fast when your home is no longer made up of capable, loving parents Henrietta, due to this tragic unexpected circumstance is now both mother and father, frustrated by Orla whom she doesn t understand, a little girl she has always felt lacked guts , something all Australians need, but she will have to learn, she will have to learn to be harder in this place What is she going to do, left with no one but the children, and how is she, a widow alone in the 1960 s, to keep them fed, housed, clothed Then there is a prowler lurking about, and women just aren t taken seriously, they need a husband for everything, how is she to secure a better home for her girls when women need men to be approved for such things A woman alone with little girls is a target The odds are always stacked against her Dan left them nothing He didn t prepare for such things and she is paying for it all, she and her girls Another betrayal she has to stomach, and there were other betrayals She hates the thought of it all, trapped, a mountain on her shoulders Would it have been better if she died After all, people rally behind men who lose wives, forgive them anything, not so for a widow It s probably her fault he is dead These thoughts are absolutely genuine of the times, it was the same with single mothers even when I grew up in America during the late seventies and early eighties, there was a they probably deserve it mentality There wasn t empathy for single mom s whether due to the loss of a husband or divorce Being in Henrietta s shoes would be terrifying and there are pages dedicated to her head space, though Orla dominates the novel.With their father gone, a young mother named Cora comes into their lives too, not as coarse as they once believed but talking about adult things Orla doesn t always comprehend, with so much life in her, confidence, a fun person Her mother has different views on unfortunate Cora, jealous too of the amount of time her eldest daughter chooses to spend at her house but Orla thinks she is lucky, with both her mother and father still alive Little sister, wild Deebee feels caged when she has to stay with the Thompsons while her mother is at work, absolutely hates it I adored Deebee, she is feral, she isn t a good girl but that doesn t make her bad She is a fierce little thing, even less aware of what goes on around them all.Through the novel there is a threat simmering, but threats always simmer for women living on their own The ending really hit me between the eyes The novel may lose some readers because often people get lost in internal dialogue, particularly when it s the worries of an often anxious young girl I think it actually works for Orla s character, because with the difficulties and grief she feels, the longing, the fear of the future, her mind wouldn t ever be at rest, her thoughts wouldn t be linear That s how we are when we re trying to make sense of our place in the world A sad novel.Out Today February 1, 2019Fremantle Press I m not fond of novels written from a child s limited perspective but when well done, they can transport the reader back to childhood in a most compelling way In Marcella Polain s new novel Driving into the Sun, the suburbs of Perth in 1968 are the backdrop for disputing the nostalgia of the good old days , and most of it is told from pre pubescent Orla s point of view But occasionally, that curtain lifts and the reader hears from those that Orla observes so minutely her idealised father Dan reveals his flaws her erratic mother Henry Henrietta shows us the panic which drives her actions and we see the bewilderment of her little sister Deebee.I am indebted to one of my favourite authors Amanda Curtin for my discovery of this author In an interview on Amanda s blog about this book I learned that Marcella has a well established profile as a poet, as a writer for theatre and the screen, and as an essayist Her awards include the Calibre Essay Prize Longlisted 2010 Patricia Hackett Prize Winner 2005, 2010 the ACT Judith Wright Prize Shortlisted 2008 the Western Australian Premier s Poetry Prize Shortlisted 2000 and the Anne Elder Prize Winner 1996 But it was her first novel The Edge of the World 2008 which interested me most it was shortlisted for the 1987 2011, sorely missed Commonwealth Writers Prize, and I bought a copy for the TBR I meant to read it before Driving into the Sun but the library pre empted that when my reserve came in almost as soon as the book was released.As the interview reveals, there are autobiographical elements in this story Marcella was born in Singapore and arrived in Perth as an immigrant, at the age of two, with her Armenian mother and Irish father In the novel, Perth is home for Orla, but she is aware of the displacement felt by her immigrant parents The fractured style of the narrative means that the reader must piece fragments together to form a coherent whole, and although I haven t read Eimear McBride s A Girl is a Half formed Thing it is obviously an influence because the epigraph signals not only the style but also a major preoccupation Thinking I think of you and me Our empty spaces where fathers should be Orla and Deebee are both bewildered by their parents turbulent marriage Readers have to work out for themselves whether Father is weak and placatory or one who exercises his power by ignoring his wife s frustrated rages and ensuring that the children s love him best But from Orla s point of view he is their refuge She is not like Deebee who is light hearted and cheerful she is an introvert, an isolate at school, and terrified of the consequences of not being good She is quiet, and preoccupied with being obedient, than seems healthy for a child of her age It is self protective behaviour against inchoate fears, and tragically, she blames herself when her father dies, for not being good enough.Her parents, who met in the Middle East, have had traumatic experiences He conforms to Irish stereotype and drinks too much her anxiety paralyses her capacity to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of her neighbours and she catastrophises everything she perceives as a hazard If you know the history of the 1915 Armenian genocide in which Turkey obliterated a country and sought to destroy its culture, you know that these fears are well founded This event was in living memory in 1968 when the book is set and chez moi we have a friend whose parents and grandparents hold the atrocity in intergenerational memory Having lost so much, Mother does not cope well with the sudden death of her husband and their reduced circumstances, and support is inadequate She learns how vulnerable single women are when police are dismissive of her reports about a prowler.To read the rest of my review please visit This is a well written novel with a poetic prose style The story is based on the harsh reality of a widowed woman Henry mother of the 11 year old main character Orla and Debee, who faces a no man s land Orla s father was a great bright light in his world When she dies suddenly, Orla has to live without his warm and powerful presence at the peak of her adolescence It is a story full of respect for children and the cheerfulness of their inner worlds Explore the feelings of grief, loneliness, tenderness, innocence, and betrayal I give it 3 stars out of 5. This was a poignant story about an adolescent girl who idolizes her father when he suddenly dies and rather than allow her to be a part of the grieving process she is sent out as though it is a normal day This book tried to tackle this very personal and difficult issue of how any child would or should cope with losing the most important person adult in their young lives Overall, I felt like the author did a good job with this although I think it is difficult to capture a child s perspective, in that moment, once you are no longer the child But the validity of the narrative still feels true and well written DrivingIntotheSun NetGalley Driving Into the Sun is a breathtaking and evocative coming of age novel The author s experience as a prolific poet seeps into her prose in the most beautiful way when unfurling the trauma felt by young Orla as she navigates a childhood without the figure of her father The repeated scenes of her father s death each time depicted a little differently were a haunting and clever technique, and the use of ellipsis as a literary device was stunning and so effective This is an achingly beautiful literary novel. The poetic language and structure of this book returned me to the space inside my child self how aware we were of our knees, throats, teeth, visibility what we heard and didn t hear This is a timely articulation of the imbalance of power in a young girl s life Like Charlotte Wood s The Natural Way of Things, this book transports you into a world and you awake from it seeing your own world in a new light. Cora always bought Robur tea Orla loved its indigo wrapper, the squeak of its leaves when she squeezed the packet, its scent New boxes of tea, she thought, smelled like earth, sounded like a forest full of birds Driving Into The Sun is the second novel by Singapore born prize winning Australian poet and author, Marcella Polain It s 1968, Perth, Western Australia, and young Orla Blest s life is pretty good It would be better if they were still living in the hills, where her school friends are better still if she had a horse But she s here, in a suburb near the beach, with Henrietta Mum and Dan Dad and her little sister, Deebee, just for a year, until their house is built And Dad takes her to riding lessons every second Saturday being with Dad, just her, and riding Nugget, her two favourite things in life But then, one Monday morning, Dad doesn t come home.Daddy is gone And, yes, there was a funeral Orla and Deebee weren t allowed to go, were taken to the zoo instead , but despite that, despite what everyone says, despite what Deebee believes, Orla, deep down, still hopes, still expects every day that, when she puts the key in the door after school, he will be there in the kitchen, listening to his transistor radio, waiting for her, if only she behaves well, if only she s a good girl.Polain s main narrator is an adolescent girl whose voice is made authentic by the joys, worries, dreads and doubts that fill her thoughts, as well as the sentence structure of her inner monologue fragments, stops, and repetition all give it a convincing realism Dan s thoughts as he collapses and dies provide some history that Orla cannot know, and occasional pieces from the perspective of Henry and Deebee complete the story Polain s plot is easily believable her characters, their fears and flaws and foibles, will all resonate with readers of a certain vintage and the setting is expertly conveyed by her evocative descriptive prose In the late afternoons, the tree trunks flushed pink, orange Dusk gathered them up, a handful of slender bruises mauve, indigo, charcoal Then swallowed them There is certainly drama, but this is no page turner rather, it s a slow burn story that draws the reader in to the final shocking conclusion An outstanding read.This unbiased review is from a copy provided by Fremantle Press. The author brilliantly captured the struggle of an adolescent girl that has lost the person at the center of her life Struggling not only with the death of her father, but of the new reality of being treated differently since she is no longer part of a nuclear family, Orla is forced to grow up quickly The stellar writing by the author made this a journey I thoroughly enjoyed.
Marcella Polain was born in Singapore and immigrated to Perth when she was two years old, with her Armenian mother and Irish father She has a background in theatre and screen writing, and has lectured in the Writing program at Edith Cowan University She was founding WA editor for the national poetry journal Blue Dog, has been poetry editor for Westerly and was inaugural editor for the WA journal
- 312 pages
- Driving into the Sun
- Marcella Polain
- 23 October 2019 Marcella Polain