The Rabbits (Sophie Overett, Vintage)
The Rabbits is a tense suburban drama that probes the limits of family bonds and human potential. Sophie Overett, who won the 2020 Penguin Literary Prize for the manuscript, has crafted a novel that dips comfortably into multiple genres, blending elements of magic realism and crime thrillers into a taut literary narrative. Set in Queensland during the peak of summer, The Rabbits opens in the midst of a sticky and oppressive heatwave. Delia Rabbit is haunted by the childhood disappearance of her sister, Bo. A once practicing artist, Delia is dissatisfied in her roles as university lecturer and single mother of three. Around her, Delia’s family stagnates too—her mother in a nursing home and her children struggling with the pressures of friendship and fitting in. Just as it seems that they will be trapped in these repeating cycles forever, Delia’s middle son disappears. Overett is clever in her use of suspense, showing a great deal of authorial control, particularly in the way that she navigates the hint of magic realism underpinning the central themes of the book. The Rabbits has elements in common with Steven Amsterdam’s What the Family Needed, in which a family’s sudden and surprising development of superpowers causes them to consider their individual identities and relationships with each other. Similarly, Overett uses a touch of the surreal to explore the way each of the Rabbits sees themselves in the world and in their family unit. In The Rabbits Overett brings a fresh eye to the suburban novel; her debut is keenly observed and punctuated by moments of surprise.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne writer and academic, and the schools programmer at the Wheeler Centre. Read her interview with Sophie Overett about The Rabbits here.