The Gaps (Leanne Hall, Text)
The fourth novel by 2009 Text Prize winner Leanne Hall is simultaneously harrowing and enchanting. The Gaps begins as abruptly as a slap, with a newscast declaring schoolgirl Yin Mitchell has been abducted. Through the contrasting perspectives of scholarship student Chloe and the popular Natalia, readers bear witness to the grief of Yin’s friends and family, and to the rising fear of the other students of Balmoral Ladies College—for this is not the first abduction. Balmoral’s students are on the path from girlhood to womanhood but some have been plucked from that path by monsters in the shadows. The Gaps echoes cultural touchstones about girls who are lost, taken or disappear: fairytales, gratuitous crime novels, and the classic story of Australian schoolgirls, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Although determined Natalia tries her hand at sleuthing in order to find Yin, she is no Nancy Drew and The Gaps is no mystery with clues to be pieced together. Instead, Hall’s thoughtful novel explores friendship, victimhood and art. Readers who enjoyed the private school machinations of Alice Pung’s Laurinda but are prepared for the tension of Sarah Epstein’s Deep Water will be drawn into this novel, and will find it hard to escape its pull.
Ilona Urquhart has a PhD in literary studies and now works in a public library.