All Fall Down

All Fall Down

by Cassandra Austin

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 30/01/2017

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When a bridge in the small outback town of Mululuk mysteriously collapses, the town is cut off from the world, and its citizens from each other.

As the locals try to work out why the bridge fell and what it will take to replace it, old rivalries, forgotten romances and primitive drives come to the fore.

Teenaged Rachel has come from ‘the city’ to stay with her uncle after her home life has fallen apart, and she quickly becomes involved in the quest for the truth about the bridge. Father Nott, the local Franciscan priest, is trying to get the hysterical townsfolk to see sense, particularly his gossip-mongering friend Gussy.

Shane, Janice and Craig find themselves at the heart of a devastating love triangle, with deadly ramifications that will reverberate far beyond the three of them. And the mysterious Charlie, a scruffy, charismatic alcoholic with a dark past, has a terrifying idea about what it takes to keep a bridge standing.

In a town that keeps its secrets like it builds its houses underground Charlie’s is the most dangerous of all.

Wry, rich and unsettling, All Fall Down is a starkly Australian gothic novel about a community divided, and a chilling, archaic belief about what must be done to reunite it.

‘Austin writes a captivating story, surprising and intriguing, in prose that’s spare but vivid.’ - Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmaker

ISBN:
9781926428253
Category:
Contemporary fiction
Format:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
30-01-2017
Publisher:
Penguin Australia Pty Ltd
Country of origin:
Australia
Edition:
1st Edition
Pages:
320
Dimensions (mm):
235x154x25mm
Weight:
0.37kg

As Janice drives onto the bridge, bitumen hums beneath her tyres, sleek after the gravel corrugations that trail the rest of Mululuk. She barely notices. Too irritated by the blaze of lights.

Out of habit she flicks off her headlights, wishing for quiet black. But there is no relief: enormous globes jut upward from the railing, scorching the night air and romancing insects to a quick, sizzling death. Perhaps if there were water flowing underneath the bridge, a gurgling river, the harsh glare would be carried away over ripples, or reflected gently back. But there is only a chasm of dry red dust, so the hot lights wick what little moisture there is from the desert air and, outside this skirt of light, Mululuk’s houses, pubs, dongas and mining machinery are bathed in black. Gone.

Janice wishes the lights were gone.

Months ago, before the lights were up, Janice would drive across the bridge, cut her headlights and make everything disappear. Just she and the car flying through the darkness, up with the stars.

It was a gift: that stretch of time in the rich black air, suspended between the two sides of Mululuk. The feeling that she didn’t have to choose. So she came to drive over it and cut her headlights again and again, stopping time, quieting her panic. Until the globes arrived, obliterating the sweet black.

And then her baby was born.

The baby she has left at home.

Just until she can sort out her life.

Janice takes a deep breath and leans into the steering wheel, searching for the spray-painted message she saw this afternoon. Anna Pavlova. Dripping red letters on a bit of bridge railing calling to her. And here she is, answering him. Being ridiculous in the middle of the night.

Her hands on the steering wheel look old, every line deep under the glare of artificial light. What is she doing? It will all be talk anyway. That’s all Shane can do. And she has left Flora at home by herself.

That’s wrong.

This is wrong.

She suddenly swings her car around into the oncoming lane. But the bridge, while very long, is not wide enough for one smooth U-turn and she has to reverse to complete the manoeuvre. She is shifting into drive again when a loud crack splits the dry air.

The night pauses, the car stalls, and her white face looks out, alarmed.

The crack is followed by an ear-splitting screech: tiny rivets shearing through metalwork as though it were butter. The massive concrete span fractures. Plummets. There is a thunderous tumult of crumbling girders and Janice’s car skids sideways, down, falling with pieces of concrete and steel large as boats to smash into the earth.

Those bright lights go too, bursting into electrical fireworks as cabling snaps and wires recoil like hissing snakes. All the lights gone, as she wished.

After blooming from the mouth of the chasm, the violence of the collapse is quickly subdued, reduced to an aftermath of trickling rubble. The red soil that flew into the air at impact now billows, weeping, and for a moment the night is again quiet.

Dark and shapeless.

Then one dog, two dogs, an orchestra of dogs starts barking.

Cassandra Austin

Born in 1969, Cassandra Austin grew up in outback NSW but completed her formal education at Melbourne University with an MA in Criminology.

She also has an MA in Creative Writing from RMIT. Austin has previously written one novella, Seeing George, published by Random House in 2004.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children, but returns to Australia regularly.

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