Tree Palace (Craig Sherborne, Text)
Set in the Wimmera Mallee in Victoria’s north-west, award-winning author Craig Sherborne’s second novel Tree Palace is about a group of street smart survivors living on society’s fringe. They are itinerants or ‘trants’ who squat and obtain an income from welfare and from selling the heritage fittings they strip from abandoned properties. Matriarch Moira and her partner Shane, his half-brother Midge, and Moira’s children Zara and Rory have found a place where they could settle and be happy but life is never simple. The police are after Shane, and 15-year-old Zara is struggling to bond with her newborn son Mathew; she wants to continue being a carefree teenager and this causes conflict with Moira, who feels a great responsibility towards the baby. Much of the novel’s action and characterisation unfolds through its authentic dialogue, and Sherborne’s skills as a poet and playwright shine through. Readers will also enjoy his vivid depictions of nature—another strong feature of the novel is its rural setting. Told with warmth and humour, this contemporary, distinctly Australian story explores teen pregnancy; motherhood and parenthood; love and family; the roles and feelings of men and boys; and the power plays inherent in all human relationships. Tree Palace serves up a full slice of life—the bitter with the sweet.
Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor and reviewer