The Curlew’s Eye (Karen Manton, A&U)
A poisoned dam, a crumbling abandoned homestead, encounters with a mysterious girl and the pull of a haunting landscape are all woven together in this literary Australian Gothic debut from Karen Manton. Greta moves with her husband Joel and their three sons into a remote shack in the Top End, on the land where Joel grew up. The plan is to fix up the family’s ruined property and build cabins for tourists. Amid crude burial sites, burned husks of cars and an abundance of bones, Greta, an outsider, brings with her a photographer’s eye and a sense for exposing the unseen. In drawing out the secrets of the place—and of Joel’s family’s past—she is forced to revisit her own past and the trauma and secrets that she tamps down within herself. The Northern Territory provides a compelling setting for The Curlew’s Eye while the motif of the bush stone-curlew of the title, with its wail-like call and its mythical associations with death, adds an eerie layer to this haunting, enigmatic tale. Manton writes with poetic dexterity, drawing on an intimate awareness of the natural landscape and displaying her skill for creating a vivid sense of place, mood and character. The Curlew’s Eye will appeal to readers who love rural Australian stories with a touch of dark mystery.
Deborah Crabtree is a Melbourne-based writer and bookseller.