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The Last Days of Ava Langdon (Mark O’Flynn, UQP)

Let us be clear—not all novelists are poets and not all poets are novelists. Mark O’Flynn is that rare writer who can do both well. The Last Days of Ava Langdon may be a novel, but it is also a perfectly judged poetic work. O’Flynn takes us into the mind of the enigmatic Australian writer Eva Langley, although he doesn’t presume to provide us with a factual account. Ava Langdon, as he calls her, is a genius and a recluse, a poet and a novelist, and an old woman. Known for dressing as Oscar Wilde, waving her machete wildly in the air and occasionally bending the law when necessary, Eva/Ava is the town eccentric. But in her own mind, she is literary royalty. We inhabit her thoughts utterly and understand the world as she sees it, the lines between the real and the unreal expertly blurred. And what a glorious reality it is. Sadly, when we step back, we see a fragile woman on the edge of her sanity, betrayed by her ageing body and abandoned by those who loved her. O’Flynn’s portrait of Langley/Langdon is deeply moving. It asks us to think about who we want to be and who we will be when we are old, and who will be there at the end.

Angela Andrewes is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, reviewer, former bookseller and subscriptions manager for the Griffith Review

 

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