and other stories
In this short story collection, Jane Skelton writes cool prose about hot landscapes, about characters seeking relief from strong emotions.
Her characters twist and turn in the violent weather that is trying to break them, while inside their bodies the turmoil is as great as or greater than the outside world. Combined with the spare prose, the emotion of the weather and the landscape is almost unbearable, except that, like waiting for the southerly buster on a hot afternoon, we wait to know what will happen to these characters. Will the storm pass over the islands, will it rain in outback Queensland and take the pressure down? But in these stories the pressure is never released, it intensifies.
These evocative descriptions of the Australian landscape and keen observations of the people who inhabit it, bring to mind Thea Astley and Jessica Anderson.
Travellers on highways and trains are preoccupied with the lives of the dead, with lost children or parents. A woman searches a suburban deadland for her missing mother. A rural family struggles on land that fails to sustain them. A young man’s attempts to leave the strictures of family life ends in violence. These lives are tied up inextricably in the Australian landscape.
‘Lives of the Dead’ is a haunting and lyrical debut collection by a talented writer.
photos by Sarah Delaney