A stunning literary novel from the author of the Stella Prize shortlisted Hope Farm.
There was a house on a hill in the city and it was full of us, our family, but then it began to empty. We fell out. We made a mess. We draped ourselves in blame and disappointment and lurched around, bumping into each other. Some of us wailed and shouted; some of us barely made a sound. None of us was listening, or paying attention. And in the middle of it all you, very quietly, were gone.
Helen and John are too preoccupied with making a mess of their marriage to notice the quiet ways in which their daughters are suffering. Junie grows up brittle and defensive, Anna difficult and rebellious.
When fifteen-year-old Anna fails to come home one night, her mother's not too worried; Anna's taken off before but always returned. Helen waits three days to report her disappearance.
But this time Anna doesn't come back ...
A spellbinding novel in the tradition of Helen Garner, Charlotte Wood and Georgia Blain, Islands is a riveting and brilliant portrait of a family in crisis by the breathtakingly talented author of House of Sticks and Hope Farm.
Booktopia Staff Review by Ben Hunter
I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I see for a few weeks now. “You have to read this book that won’t come out until 2019!” I say. It’s still November at the time of writing so my endorsements have mainly frustrated people. But I can’t help talking about Islands. This is a dark and understated beauty, a spellbinding novel that will knock you senseless.
Told in sparse, meditative prose, Islands draws a tragic portrait of a family falling apart in the aftermath of a marriage. Helen leaves John to try and find someone better for her disappointing and boozy life. John is paralysed by shame and hopelessness. Their two daughters are left unfulfilled; undernourished in this newly broken home. Junie struggles on while the younger, Anna becomes spiteful and rebellious. At 15 she leaves and at first Helen isn’t too concerned, she’s gone before and has always returned. But this time she won’t.
Islands is drenched with longing and despair but Frew divvies it out to the reader with tender elegance, moving from character, to meticulously scrutinised character in an almost painterly composition. There’s no effort made to evoke shock or pity, this novel is working towards something much more vital – to make you better understand the nature of loss and the lives of those who grow up in homes which aren’t absent of love but for whom love comes at a deficit.
For me, Islands will sit on the shelf with Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog and the fiction works of Helen Garner. I’m going to come back to this haunting, achingly good book again and again.
About the Author
Peggy Frew's first novel, House of Sticks, won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer, and was shortlisted for the UTS Glenda Adams Prize for New Writing. Hope Farm, her second novel, won the Barbara Jefferis Award, was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. She has been published in New Australian Stories 2, Kill Your Darlings, Meanjin and The Big Issue. Peggy is also a member of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Melbourne band Art of Fighting. Islands is her third novel.
'Peggy Frew is an amazing writer...Elegant, tender and very wise.'
Chris Womersley, author of Bereft on Hope Farm
'Peggy Frew's novel, Hope Farm, tells an original tale, drawing into the body of Australian literary fiction, a world between the cracks. Peggy's voice is contemporary, her observations sharp and sensitive. Hope Farm describes the cycle of loss and damage when there are no boundaries to protect us.'
Sofie Laguna, author of The Eye of the Sheep, 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award winner