Elegy (Jane Abbott, Random House)
The locals call Kincasey ‘Short Town’—no matter what you expect from it, it always comes up short. In this stereotypical Australian country town, rife with gossip and misogyny, the local Webster family are anything but typical. Daughter Caitlyn is older than her years, step-brother Michael conjures up the impossible, son Gabe is a charmer and protector. When a new girl, Jenny, arrives in town, drama ensues. Elegy is a unique read with lofty ambitions but, like its setting, it falls a little short. With a plot rooted in Greek mythology it’s fitting Elegy most closely resembles a Greek tragedy, full of guises, mishaps and the burden of destiny. Its style alternates between weighty, descriptive language and intense angst. There are also Shakespearian influences, including a soliloquising villain intent on revenge. It’s a reincarnation story unlike others—characters have not just one significant past life, but many, and rather than intertwining these as parallel narratives, the story stays in the present while memories of past lives bubble through. Elegy will divide readers—many will struggle to engage with it; those that do will be rewarded. It is recommended for fans of the classics with a fantastical slant, such as Alison Croggon’s Black Spring.
Jordi Kerr is a freelance reviewer and youth literature advocate, formerly with the Centre for Youth Literature