Edenglassie (Melissa Lucashenko, UQP)
Melissa Lucashenko’s Edenglassie is a literary epic that skilfully weaves between the present day, where Grannie Eddie is looked after by her feisty granddaughter Winona and Dr Johnny, and mid-1850s Brisbane, where Mulanyin falls in love with Nita and yearns to return to his family in Yugambeh Country. Edenglassie deftly showcases the complexity, sophistication and wisdom in the laws of sovereign First Nations and the Elders who guide the protagonists in the past and present and deconstructs colonial myths. Lucashenko, who won the Miles Franklin award for her novel Too Much Lip, has created characters here who are diverse in class and personality, and their bonds with each other are deeply fleshed out and palpably felt by the reader. Nita and Mulanyin’s love story is achingly tender and romantic, whereas Winona and Johnny’s has its own fumbling charm, with Johnny’s continuous attempts to win Winona over. Displacement is a central theme in the novel: the larger displacement of First Nations people as colonial Brisbane is built, and Mulanyin’s displacement in the Yagara land and his longing to make a life in Nerang, despite being surrounded by his loving adopted family of Murree, Yerrin and Dawalbin. The tragedy, injustice and brutality of the British invasion are made visible in the historical setting as well as in the contemporary one, where we see its impact on the present-day characters, but Edenglassie also portrays deep hope, resistance and reverence, and is fierce in its commitment to building a rich life swelling with love.
Books+Publishing reviewer: Shivani Prabhu is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.