24 February 2010

Julia Leigh, Disquiet, 2008

Fleeing a violent marriage in Australia, Olivia returns to her mother and childhood château in France with her two young children and a broken arm. By coincidence her brother arrives with his wife and newborn child, along with a tragic secret that will turn them into a family in extremis. Just two books into her career and Simon Schama is already calling Julia Leigh “one of the greatest living writers”. Before beginning Disquiet I was sceptical about this accolade, but I had to admit just fifty pages in that I admired enormously her distilled method that cuts out an enormous amount of in-between and focuses on tight prose that makes the family tension palpable, bleeding out in a long string of tense and, yes, exquisitely described interpersonal moments. There is much left unspoken in this rather gothic, present-day novella and Leigh doesn’t waste words, so as an example of how less is more this comes highly recommended.  PY


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