The Trespassers (Meg Mundell, UQP)
Meg Mundell’s second novel has been hotly anticipated since her debut, Black Glass, showed her to be a writer of extraordinary imaginative prowess, with a commitment to exploring themes of displacement and social justice. The Trespassers follows a boatload of indentured workers, lured by big business with promises of houses, money and health. Set in a not-too-distant future, the story focuses on three passengers as they turn their backs on the declining economy and the plague-like sicknesses that have ravaged the British Isles. Mistrust borne through fear of getting sick is rife; the people aboard the ship have undergone rigorous physical screening to get a clean bill of health. So sure are they that the ship is germ-free, the passengers gleefully shed their mandatory face masks as they pull away from the shore. Mundell expertly handles her characters’ deepening fear and their sense of paranoia and powerlessness when they realise that the ship is not the safe haven they expected. The Trespassers is a tightly crafted, clever story that positions the white middle and upper classes in the very place they/we fear—a place where they are wholly reliant on the sympathy of the strangers who will meet them on foreign soil. The Trespassers shows a great sense of maturity and is a gripping, powerful read.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne writer and academic