An exquisite and moving new novel from this master storyteller.
On a radiant day in Sydney, four adults converge on Circular Quay, site of the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Crowds of tourists mix with the locals, enjoying the glorious surroundings and the play of light on water.
But each of the four carries a complicated history from elsewhere; each is haunted by past intimacies, secrets and guilt: Ellie is preoccupied by her sexual experiences as a girl, James by a tragedy for which he feels responsible, Catherine by the loss of her beloved brother in Dublin and Pei Xing by her imprisonment during China's Cultural Revolution.
Told over the course of a single Saturday, Five Bells describes four lives which chime and resonate, sharing mysterious patterns and symbols. But it is a fifth person, a child, whose presence at the Quay haunts the day and who will overshadow everything that unfolds. By night-time, when Sydney is drenched in a rainstorm, each life has been transformed.
Five Bells is a novel of singular beauty and power by one of Australia's most gifted novelists.
Reading Group Book Questions
About the Author
- Is Sydney (and the poem Five Bells) integral to this novel, or could this story take place in any Australian city?
- Why do you think Circular Quay is such a potent catalyst for the protagonists’ self-reflections? And how does it transform each character in the novel?
- In Five Bells the concept of ‘family’ is inextricably linked to one’s personal history. Does family inevitably shape one’s sense of self?
- Intimacy is a prevalent theme in the story, explored in both memory and sexuality. What does this say about the characters’ relationship with their past, and their present insecurities?
- Can we ever escape the child we once were, or our families?
Gail Jones is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels BLACK MIRROR, SIXTY LIGHTS, DREAMS OF SPEAKING and SORRY. Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal. She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina. Her fiction has been translated into nine languages. Gail has recently taken up a Professorship at UWS.
"Over the past decade Gail Jones has established herself as a significant presence in contemporary Australian fiction. Thoughtful, intelligent, and intensely lyrical...a novel of unmistakable contemporary relevance."---"The Guardian" (London) "An intense...poetic tale."---"Financial Times" (London) ""Five Bells" is a brilliant work, both explicitly Australian and insistently cosmopolitan...[and] establishes Gail Jones as one of Australia's finest authors....In the midst of pandemonium, traffic, and tourist hordes gazing at icons, Jones gives us individuals who are achingly alive, filled with apprehensions of beauty, love, and mortality."---"The Australian ""Jones's writing has the intensity of a dream...combining tension with lyricism."---"The Times" (London) "A story peopled by real characters, memorably related in delicate, ornate prose."---"The Independent" (London) "A novel that reaches beyond the glittering surface of Sydney to capture the rippling patterns of a wider human history with singular beauty and power."---"The Canberra Times (Australia) "