Love & Virtue (Diana Reid, Ultimo)
Two young women. An elite residential college. Michaela and Eve are fundamentally different: Michaela is a reserved scholarship student, while Eve, an outgoing envelope-pusher, is brash, bold and beautiful. Despite their differences, they become close. As Michaela traverses the implications of unlimited sex and alcohol, of being a woman in a highly gendered social system navigating a predatory relationship, Eve takes a deeply personal and complex sexual encounter experienced by Michaela during O Week and adapts it to embellish her own—nonetheless noble and well-meaning—political agenda. Love & Virtue is an interesting, layered novel; in masterful strokes it throws up subtle but articulate sociopolitical questions that in non-didactic terms encourage the reader to question themselves. Throughout the novel runs an elegant and complex dynamic that illustrates what happens when activism and the moral high ground are coloured by class. Eve has the luxury—the privilege—of questioning the ethics of the college and the moral ramifications of her residence there, but Michaela, living off the charity of a scholarship, has no such choice. Love & Virtue’s strength is that it is principled but not preachy, eloquent but accessible. This exceptional debut novel is an absolute must-read companion to Helen Garner’s The First Stone. Press it into the hands of every young student going to college or university for the first time.
Georgia Brough is a bookseller, critic and writer based in Melbourne. She speaks to the author here.