The Burnished Sun (Mirandi Riwoe, UQP)
Mirandi Riwoe’s The Burnished Sun comprises a series of short stories sandwiched between two novellas, opening with ‘Annah the Javanese’ and closing with Riwoe’s award-winning ‘The Fish Girl’. Despite the brevity of some of the stories, Riwoe expertly transports the reader to the unique worlds and minds of the characters in each. ‘Annah the Javanese’ is a fascinating and agonising postcolonial exploration of the life of a servant girl who is passed between people like objects, and the impossibly frustrating doublethink employed by the people around her who ‘save’ her. As the girl comes to live with the artist Gauguin, Riwoe further weaves in commentary on the art world of the late 1800s and attitudes around the starving artist mentality, while also offering a critique of the style of orientalism and exoticism in artwork from that era. As always with Riwoe’s work, there is a beautifully ethereal element to her writing throughout the collection. While the shorter stories are generally more contemporary and closer to home in Australia, they cover an astounding range of voices. From grieving mothers and wives to teenagers just trying to fit in, The Burnished Sun offers the reader a glimpse of the many different forms that the same feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement can take. This collection is the perfect read for existing fans of Riwoe and her style of postcolonial historical fiction, as well as readers of Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke or Lucky Ticket by Joey Bui.
Marina Sano is a bookseller and owner of Amplify Bookstore.