Gravity Well (Melanie Joosten, Scribe)
Thirty years ago, American astronomer Carl Sagan described a photo of our planet as a blue dot: ‘That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.’ This quote ran through my head while I was reading Melanie Joosten’s excellent second novel, Gravity Well. Joosten uses the vastness of our solar system as a contrast to the lives of her protagonists: Lotte, an astronomer, and her best friend Eve. The story centres on these two independent women and how their lives are affected by relationships, parenting and genetics. Joosten has an uncanny ability to make the reader aware of trouble ahead: to make us feel the frayed nerves of her characters, their lost opportunities and heartbreaking quests for meaning. Her dexterity in holding back the crux of the story for maximum impact is quite remarkable; we saw this particular skill with her first novel, Berlin Syndrome. I read this novel understanding there would be grief before all the pieces of the women’s lives fall into place, and I wept when it arrived. Joosten portrays the women’s friendship and their psychological pain with grace, marking her as a truly significant writer in Australia. Readers of Zoe Morrison, Eliza Henry-James and Stephanie Bishop will appreciate her capacity to make a small story feel like a universal truth.
Christine Gordon is the events manager of Readings and a past board member of the Stella Prize