Stone Sky Gold Mountain (Mirandi Riwoe, UQP)
In goldrush-era Australia the landscape is harsh, the law basically non-existent and discrimination bluntly and unashamedly informs every facet of life. Siblings Ying and Lai Yue are trying to scrape enough money together to return to China and save their fractured family. Eventually Ying befriends Merri, who works for a ‘painted woman’ and is snubbed by almost everyone in town. From the opening line of Stone Sky Gold Mountain, a delicate sense of dread hangs over the novel. Tackling themes of loneliness, white supremacy, colonialism and Australia’s brutal recent past, this book focuses on the forgotten stories of those who quietly lived on the edges of an oft talked about era. Mirandi Riwoe’s command of historical fiction was made clear in her Stella Prize-shortlisted novella The Fish Girl. Her debut novel builds upon all the strengths demonstrated in her earlier work and deftly elevates it, culminating in an absorbing novel that not only shows the tragedy of the individual characters’ lives, but also cuts to the heart of human nature and Australia’s fraught history. The balance of character study, tension and historical insights in Stone Sky Gold Mountain will appeal to fans of Jock Serong’s Preservation and Sienna Brown’s Master of My Fate.
Elizabeth Flux is a freelance writer and editor