The Restorer

The Restorer 1

by Michael Sala

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 27/02/2017

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RRP  $29.99 $23.95

An extraordinary literary novel set in Newcastle in 1989, about the devastating fault lines that can run in families.

After a year apart, Maryanne returns to her husband, Roy, bringing their eight-year-old son Daniel and his teenage sister Freya with her. The family move from Sydney to Newcastle, where Roy has bought a derelict house on the coast. As Roy painstakingly patches the holes in the floorboards and plasters over cracks in the walls, Maryanne believes, for a while, that they can rebuild a life together.

But Freya doesn’t want a fresh start she just wants out and Daniel drifts around the sprawling, run-down house in a dream, infuriating his father, who soon forgets the promises he has made.

Some cracks can never be smoothed over, and tension grows between Roy and Maryanne until their uneasy peace is ruptured with devastating consequences.

Contemporary fiction
Paperback / softback
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Text Publishing Co
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Michael Sala

Michael Sala was born in the Netherlands in 1975 to a Greek father and a Dutch mother, and first came to Australia in the 1980s.

He lives in Newcastle. His critically acclaimed debut, The Last Thread, won the 2013 NSW Premier's Award for New Writing and was the regional winner (Pacific) of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

5 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • a powerful, moving read.

    by on

    “Some nights sleep wouldn’t come to her at all. A wakefulness bloomed in her, so intense it was as if something made of needles was trying to claw its way out. She’d watch the dawn spread over the street”

    The Restorer is the second novel by Dutch-born Australian author, Michael Sala. When Maryanne arrives with her children at the house in East Newcastle that her estranged husband has bought, it is with hope that they can restore their relationship to its earlier, more stable state. The house is a dump, but Roy is confident he will have it fully liveable or saleable within a year.

    Not everyone shares his enthusiasm for the move. Fourteen-year-old Freya is resentful of being torn away from Sydney, her friends and her nan; eight-year-old Daniel is still acting too vague and dreamy, too sheltered by Maryanne, for Roy’s liking. As the months go by and Roy’s behaviour regresses, Maryanne’s certainty about her decision to give it another chance begins to erode.

    Sala tells his story using two main narrators: Maryanne provides the perspective of a woman trying to balance a relationship with the man she loves and the imperative to protect her children from harm; Freya gives the point of view of an adolescent growing up in a family filled with hidden tensions, with a background of which she is more aware than anyone realises; next-door neighbour Richard’s short but prescient narrative bookends these two.

    Sala’s beautiful descriptive prose effortlessly captures his setting: Newcastle locals will easily recognise their city. His mention of significant events anchors his tale firmly in the year 1989. His descriptions of weather are especially evocative: “…the weather had turned on its head the way it did on the coast, everything – the warmth, the calm, the clarity – thrown away, rain coming over at unpredictable moments, on again, off again, pummelling its fists against the windows and the roof, then fragments of blue stumbling across the sky, a sudden burst of intolerable sun, before the clouds locked back into place again and it was all humidity, and waiting, just waiting, for something to break”

    His characters are multi-faceted and realistically flawed; their dialogue is natural and their behaviour quite believable, although Maryanne gives Freya more freedom than many mothers would a fourteen-year-old. Sala touches on many topical issues, as well as some that are timeless: feelings of inadequacy, lack of trust, domestic violence, teens hormones and upheaval, suicide, drugs, alcohol, mental cruelty, and anger management all feature. This is a powerful, moving read.