Relativity (Antonia Hayes, Viking)
Antonia Hayes’ debut novel Relativity is magnetising. Its highly original plot artfully reveals the mysteries behind a family rupture, at the heart of which is adorable 12-year-old protagonist Ethan, a misfit with a genius-like knowledge of physics.
His fiercely protective single mother Claire and his estranged, mysterious father Mark remain haunted by the past: something happened when Ethan was a baby that changed all their lives. Love and hurt are intertwined and Ethan suffers as a result. Paradoxes, forgiveness, guilt and gravity play their parts as each character begins a journey of recovery.
Flawed, real and complex, the characters are one of the book’s strengths. Balanced perspectives make it easy to empathise with them, particularly Ethan.
The author’s talent is displayed through enticing imagery and the timing of the plot’s pacing and revelations. The background discourses of physics and astronomy, while a touch difficult to follow in places, was overall fascinating. Foremost, however, is the sense of familial love that pulsates through the book.
Superbly written and vividly imagined, this Sydney-set novel should have broad appeal to literary and general fiction readers, and fans of science and family drama. It deserves to create quite a buzz.
Joanne Shiells is a former retail book buyer and editor of Books+Publishing.