Trick of the Light (Laura Elvery, UQP)
The 24 stories in Brisbane writer Laura Elvery’s debut collection Trick of the Light span countries and centuries, ranging stylistically from stark realism to light speculative fiction. Some are vignettes, snatched glimpses into the lives of others—a brother and sister luck upon a small amount of money and agonise over how to spend it; a woman staying at her friend’s mountain cabin is interrupted by his teenage girlfriend. Other stories encapsulate entire lives and worlds—a teenage friendship stretches and snaps while a father grows increasingly obsessed with life extension theories; a young boy who can remember his past lives finds a kindred spirit digging up the body of Richard III. In one of the collection’s understated highlights, a small-town drama student is offered a unique audition monologue by her mentor, the results of which explore what it means to get what we want. Elvery has a particular knack for getting into the heads of children and teenagers; her young characters are a compelling mix of naivety and recklessness, trusting of adults but constantly let down by them. Her adult characters are adrift but doing their best and remain hopeful to the end. Meticulously crafted, and likely to appeal to fans of Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands, these are stories of subtle beauty and power.
Alan Vaarwerk is editor at Kill Your Darlings