Friday, 24 April 2015

Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven

One of the things I love about the new Stella Prize is that it encourages me to read authors & books that I might otherwise overlook.

Heat and Light had slipped under my radar last year, but when it was shortlisted I did a little research and found some very interesting reviews.

I dived in with great anticipation. An anticipation that quickly moved onto enjoyment and excitement at finding such a wonderful new voice in the Australian literary arena.

The only problem is I lost my notes!

This book is divided into three very distinct sections.
As I usually read several books at once, this structure allowed me to put this book down between sections to savour the story, & read something different, before coming back for the next section.

I wrote my thoughts about each section on the bookmark I was using. It is now gone.  Lost.
And my thoughts were beautiful, literary pearls of wisdom!

Ellen van Neerven has an interesting background. She is from the Yugambeh people of the Gold Coast with Dutch heritage. Her stories & writing style reflect this curious diversity.

Heat is about Pearl, an Aboriginal woman who doesn't know where she belongs.The story is told from her extended family's point of view as they all struggle with their own sense of identity & belonging.

Water was my favourite of the sections.
Set in the near future with a major environmental crisis looming & frightening political double-speak the norm, a new species of plantpeople are earmarked for extinction.
Water is sexy, disturbing & very provocative - I couldn't put it down.

The final section, Light, consists of ten unconnected short stories, that again, feature themes of belonging & family.

Van Neerven's writing is light & easy on the surface but hidden layers and complexities of emotion bubble up when you least expect them.
I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.


This review is part of my Australian Women Writer's Challenge.

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