After Story (Larissa Behrendt, UQP)
‘Books have been my lifeline, my escape.’
Jasmine’s family was forever changed by the loss of her sister when she was three. Now a lawyer, Jasmine is invited on a literary tour of England and, surprising everyone, invites her mother, Della, along in hopes of strengthening their strained bond. As Jasmine considers her education while discovering the histories of her literary heroes, Della examines the historical sites in reference to her family and home. The tragedy that occurred decades prior is continually revisited, permeating the thoughts of both mother and daughter as they explore English history. I am not a First Nations person myself and cannot speak to the way that the characters’ culture has been represented in this book, and I implore readers to prioritise the critiques and comments of First Nations reviewers in this area. However, I believe the nuanced way After Story approaches the topic of intergenerational trauma will resonate deeply with anyone who has faced the harsh reality of losing pieces of their culture with the passing of loved ones. After Story is a love letter to the English classics, without shying away from examining the parallels between Australian colonial history and the memorialisation of English literary greats. The novel explores these parallels through both its dual-perspective narrative and the voices of the tour’s other members, each offering their own take on Western canonical figures and their legacies. After Story will warm the heart of any bibliophile whose favourites include Shakespeare, Woolf and Austen, or contemporary readers invested in the familial ties explored in Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You.
Marina Sano is a bookseller and owner of Amplify Bookstore.