Why Our Staff Love The Life To Come:
This book is a glorious piece of virtuosity that is unlike anything I have ever read. It is provocative, tragicomic, and full of the most wonderfully descriptive writing you'll see this year. More invaluably though, this book may actually change you.
"The Life to Come" is a series of mini-narratives entwined to produce a rich and colourful tapestry. As 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. It is an enjoyable and slow ride that you'll savour. 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. We deceive ourselves and others to appear at our best. And this holds beyond the individual, as societies and nations also self-mythologise. At a time of casual discrimination, this poor behaviour can have repercussions beyond the obvious. The novel 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 inclusive compassion offsets this exposure of social shortcomings, as we realise these characters are full of human frailty, just like us. They mirror us in many ways, and we feel for them.
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 even change how you act. Most of all, you will certainly want to re-read it.
It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary. Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.
Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present.
This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.