Bruny (Heather Rose, A&U)
Set in a near future, Heather Rose’s latest book is a work of political intrigue that samples current events and headlines. A diplomat returns to her Tasmanian hometown, charged with covertly observing an enormous—and baffling—construction project that has already been sabotaged once. There’s an air of urgency to the situation, with interested parties keen on seeing the project completed while those against lobby for it to be stopped. The machinations of all these players left me a little lost and this feeling persisted even as the plot points finally fell into place. Some of the themes that subtly emerge uncomfortably resemble the paranoid rants of xenophobes, which, even if deliberate, is jarring. The trouble is that if Bruny is indeed based on the fractured politics of the present day it will date—and there isn’t enough of Rose’s usual skill with character development to maintain interest. The one likable character is the protagonist’s father, whose encroaching dementia makes him speak solely in quotes from Shakespeare. A welcome similarity with Rose’s other books is the underlying assertion that the arts are vitally important to a place’s cultural wellbeing—unquantifiable, priceless and enduring. However, the overall feeling I got from Bruny was disorientation, even though the setting is such a big part of the story.
Anne Barnetson is a bookseller and illustrator based in Perth