The settlement of Wahrheit, founded in exile to await the return of the Messiah, has been waiting longer than expected. Pastor Helfgott has begun to feel the subtle fraying of the community's faith.
Then Matthias Orion shoots his wife and himself, on the very day their son Benedict returns home from boarding school.
Benedict is unmoored by shock, severed from his past and his future. Unable to be inside the house, unable to speak, he moves into the barn with the horses and chooks, relying on the animals’ strength and the rhythm of the working day to hold his shattered self together.
The pastor watches over Benedict through the year of his crazy grief: man and boy growing, each according to his own capacity, as they come to terms with the unknowable past and the frailties of being human.
About the Author
Eva Hornung was born in Bendigo and now lives in rural South Australia. Formerly published as Eva Sallis, Hornung is an award-winning writer of literary fiction and criticism- her first novel Hiam won the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1997 and the Nita May Dobbie Award in 1999. The Marsh Birds won the Asher Literary Award 2005 and was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Age Book of the Year 2005, NSW Premier's Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Eva Hornung's highly acclaimed Dog Boy was shortlisted for numerous prizes and won the Prime Minister's Literary Award in 2010.
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The Last Garden is the second novel by Australian author, Eva Hornung. When fifteen-year-old Benedict Orion comes home from boarding school to find his father has shot dead his mother and then himself, the only respite he can find from memories is in the barn. In his grief, he becomes a recluse: he shuns interaction with the well-meaning townspeople of Wahrheit, and keeps company with the horses and chickens. Pastor Edmund Helfgott's visits cause anxiety and anticipation in equal measure.
Pastor Helfgott shields the boy from contact, allowing him to come to terms with his loss in his own way, praying this is the right thing to do. He does worry about the boy's mental state. But despite being a pastor's son, he has never felt he is doing an adequate job for his flock, never really filled the Old Pastor's shoes, relying on his father's sermons and the Book of Seasons his father wrote for the community in their new land. And now, this murder-suicide seems to be a catalyst for change in the small, exclusive community that the Old Pastor had founded so many years before, established in a new land to await the Second Coming.
After some time, Benedict allows some memories to surface, good ones at first:
Hornung's second novel is filled with gorgeous descriptive prose as the year following the initial shocking event unfolds. While the time period and location are not specified, her portrayal of what is probably 19th century country Victoria shows deep understanding of, and connection with, the land. The mindset and feel of the tightknit religious community is also expertly conveyed. This is a powerful and thought-provoking read.
'Dog Boy is a wonderful novel, a tour de force.' -- John Burnside Guardian UK 'Hornung writes with extraordinary force and insight...an amazing feat of imaginative power.' Canberra Times 'Astonishing...A strange, sombre, sobering triumph.' Sydney Morning Herald 'There's human violence and the strength of animals...just gripping.' Australian 'Vivid, visceral and disconcerting. The descriptions of animals are intensely empathetic, and the book raises fundamental and confronting questions about how our animal and our human selves can or should co-exist.' Books + Publishing 'Eight years after the magical, Prime Minister's Literary Award-winning Dog Boy, what a joy it is to have another beautifully-wrought novel by Adelaide author Eva Hornung.' Adelaide Advertiser 'Like all great literary fiction, The Last Garden provokes thought and empathy in equal measure. This visceral and utterly compelling new novel represents an ambitious new layer to Hornung's continued investigation of the human condition, magnificently realised.' Readings 'This is a novel that is calm and patient in its telling, and almost hypnotic in its effect. What Hornung emphasises is that it's neither our hopes for the future, nor the suffering of our pasts, that saves us. Rather, it's in the act of living-the way we attune ourselves to the shifting demands of the world around us; the use we make of the time between "the first garden ... and the last"-that redemption is to be found.' Australian 'It's melancholy, beautiful, and deeply evocative. Michael Cathcart admitted to the writer that he knew he was going to love it from page one.' Michael Cathcart, Radio National 'Eva Hornung understands how critical human relationships with animals can be.' Guardian 'Yes, there are grotesque and sinister surprises aplenty in this weird prodigy of a book, but there is a lot of tenderness and an extraordinary beauty too.' Saturday Paper 'Melancholy, beautiful, and deeply evocative.' RN Books and Arts 'Full of symbolism but not overpowered by it, this is a powerful book, and the writing is mesmerising.' Herald Sun 'The Last Garden is by no means a long read but it is a big novel. Hornung's characters, in all their awed complexity, will stay with you long after the covers of this powerful book are closed.' Australian Book Review 'Hornung's knowledge and deep respect for the spiritual and emotional relationships between humans and animals shine through in her exquisite, glittering prose. This gentle, literary novel is a moving meditation on the heavy mist of grief, and will bring back a dark solace to the tormented heart.' Big Issue
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 1st May 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3 x 2.3
Weight (kg): 0.33