Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

Image. Advertisement:

Smokehouse (Melissa Manning, UQP)

Melissa Manning’s debut short story collection is an evocative and sometimes heartbreaking exploration of family, home and what it takes to build a fulfilling life. Bookended by two longer works (‘Smokehouse’ parts one and two), the stories are linked by their small-town Tasmanian setting and a cast of characters who pop up and reappear throughout. We begin with Nora, a woman who moves somewhat reluctantly with her husband and children to a block of land with a view of the water. Her life is further changed when she meets neighbour Ollie, and their intertwined future is the book’s heart. While a couple of the later stories are less emotionally convincing, as a whole this collection is a moving and memorable depiction of a place and the lives spent within it. Recurring settings like Ollie’s backyard smokehouse, the small-town corner shop and the Bruny Island ferry make the stories feel lived-in and familiar. The sad, tender story ‘Faal’, about a man mourning the love of his life, is a highlight. Manning’s writing, which brims with strong imagery and atmosphere, will appeal to readers interested in the Tasmanian setting as well as to fans of Jennifer Down and Peggy Frew.

Rosanna Hunt is a publicist at Affirm Books and a former bookseller at Hill of Content.

*Please note this review was written prior to Rosanna Hunt joining Affirm Press.


Category: Reviews