A stunningly original and profound novel about our true identities and the stories we tell each other (and ourselves).
Reviewed by Robert at Angus & Robertson Bookworld:
The Life to Come is a series of mini-narratives entwined to produce a rich and colourful tapestry. Like in her 2012 MIles Franklin Award-winning novel Questions of Travel, there is no dominant narrative arc here - it is the details that make up the whole. Those expecting a grand plot may be confounded at first, but if you let yourself go with the novel's small episodes, a more valuable picture emerges. This novel delves into the stories we tell both others and ourselves. It explores how we make excuses for our bad behaviour and highlight our aspirations, always with our best times and deeds just before us, in the life to come.
Ultimately, De Kretser highlights how we are the heroes of our own stories. It is mostly set in Inner West Sydney, in a world of politically aware creatives who are forever bumping against each other. Each of her characters is a kind of vignette, carrying defined ideas of who they are and where they are going. Some have cast themselves as grand writers, charitable neighbours, or great liberal supporters of refugees and the marginalised. These ideals are soon revealed as the hypocritical constructs they are, with De Kretser deftly pinning each one to the board with glorious wit - her character observations are so acute that you are often left breathless. Thankfully, De Kretser’s authorial compassion offsets the social shortcomings of her characters, as we realise they are full of human frailty, just like us.
Moving and evocative, intellectual and pointed, and all written in brilliant prose, this book is a rich delight that is so uniquely of its time, and my pick of 2017 so far. Take your time reading it, and watch how it colours even the smallest social interactions in your life. You'll ask yourself questions. You may change how you act. Certainly you will want to re-read it.