A recovering alcoholic, pregnant and with her hubby recently diagnosed with cancer, her life was spiraling out of control. Then she discovered blogging, and this saved her, gave her an alternate focus and now she has gone on to become one of Australia’s best, according to her interviewer, and making money from it to boot. Her name, I have no idea of, as I awoke temporarily from my slumbers to hear her rhapsodise on the pluses of a blog – it is my habit to have the radio on during the night hours, a result of the many years that, for the most part, I lived alone. I have none of those issues in my life that the interviewee nominated, but having a blog certainly has enhanced my world, and its all down to my BTD – my Beautiful Talented Daughter. Firstly she introduced me to Goodreads, where this will shortly appear, and I found I could write reviews of sorts for the books I devoured. Then, in a labour of love for which I am immensely grateful, she set me up with a blog that will also host this piece. In that I expanded to relate happenings in my life, past and present – never of great moment, but I found I could spin a yarn around them that at least entertained me. Lately I’ve tried my hand at a sort of fiction too. My scribblings will never amount to much, but it is the satisfaction the process gives me that I so enjoy. I’ll never make a razoo from it as does the interviewee, nor do I remotely have the gift my BTD has in the ability to extend a yarn into a cogent work of fiction that publishers and readers over this great country have warmed to. BTD also has a blog relating the daily adventures of raising the Tiger, my adored granddaughter. I love my own blog and, as a newly minted retiree, it has made the transition from limited to unlimited time a doddle. So heartfelt thanks to you, BTD!
And what has all this to do with the book in question? Well the main character is also a similarly retired teacher and she has discovered ‘writing’ as well. Thea, immensely let down by the GFC, had to give up her dreams of living out her life in style in a grand rural abode of her own design, returning by necessity to her original digs, what she calls a hovel, on the same block of Blue Mountains forest-shrouded real estate. Her dream house was sold to a young city couple, with a child on the cusp of teenagerhood in tow. Her writing is in the form of exercises invented by her intriguing windbag of a creative writing facilitator, Oscar. Being somewhat of a Luddite (as was I till BTD stepped in), Thea also keeps a journal, rather than a blog. Her writing could easily have become an obsession as she is that way inclined, but instead Thea starts obsessing over the neighbouring child, Kim – a young lady of exotic heritage and one not entirely innocent. The last time Thea was so captivated by someone ended in tears, and to prevent this reoccurring she needs to take drastic action. We know something sinister is going to happen, the back cover blurb tells us so. From about half way through the tome it would become clear to any reasonably savvy reader the form this terrible climax will take, but the ‘The Precipice’ isn’t any the less for that. It is a wonderfully wrought piece of fiction as Duigan heaps the pressure on Thea until she explodes into well conceived action.
This novel places the values of one generation against those of another with interesting results. And in the middle of this is Kim, a very articulate but nonetheless unworldly child – or is she. Kim responds to Thea in a way that only one other had done so in the past, and although the first fixation takes up little of the story’s space, it is essential to an understanding of Thea’s motivations.
There are lovely moments abounding in this book, many centred on Thea’s true love in the real sense of the word, her hound Ted – and his transition from canine to ‘lover’ is one of the delights of ‘The Precipice’. Kim herself is also an excellent writerly creation.
The book is also homage to the Australian bush – its grandeur, its possibility of enveloping life and its protectiveness of the old people, the First Australians. Reading this was a terrific way of starting off a new year’s worth of the worlds books transport us to. Looking out my window this morning, on a day promising temperatures in the high thirties and extreme fire danger, I observe the surrounding bush covered hills and cogitate on what secrets they may hold – secrets my BTD also wrote very ably of in her two very fine works for young adults, ‘Thyla’ and ‘Vulpi’.
Virginia Duigan's web site = http://virginiaduigan.com/