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This is exactly the kind of book I find distasteful. And exactly the kind of book that is likely to make the next Stella Prize shortlist.

othersideCharlotte, a painter, is married to a young academic with one child, another on the way.  For her the chills and damp of English winter are comfortably “home” and completely normal.

For her husband, Henry, born in India before being shipped off to have access to better opportunities, it’s miserable and he just wants to escape. This is the ’60s and he pushes for them to find a new life in a warm climate. He finds a job at a university in Perth and they head off to the sunshine, though Charlotte reluctant from the first.

Re-located to a hot and dry Perth suburb, they both struggle to find a sense of belonging, with their feelings of dislocation and isolation affecting them in different ways.

The whole tone of this book is depressed. Things aren’t said, connections aren’t made, people lose each other and can’t find their way back. It’s a style of writing – hushed and portentous and cold – that I really dislike, though I know it is popular with Australian awards judges. Charlotte is as unpleasant and self-absorbed a character as I’ve read.

But at least I did finish it, which is more than I can say for the last two Stella Prize-winning books I tried to read.

Book published in June 2015

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