From the award-winning author of Machines for Feeling and Burning In comes a mystery, a love story and an elegy for a denatured landscape
Told from the perspective of six, interconnected characters, The World Without Us is a tale of love in all its forms, a mystery and an elegy for a denatured landscape. It is about the ways we become lost to ourselves, and the transformative joys of being found.
After a fire destroys her family's commune home, Evangeline is forced to start afresh in the north coast rainforest town with her child, and partner, Stefan Muller.
Years later, while tending the bees on their farm, Stefan discovers a car wreck, and not far off, human remains. While the locals speculate on who has gone missing from the transient hinterland town, Stefan's daughters Tess and Meg, have a more urgent mystery. Where does their mother go each day, pushing an empty pram and returning wet, muddy and disheveled?
Jim Parker, a Sydney teacher escaping his own troubles arrives in their clannish community. One morning he stumbles upon Evangeline, naked by a river with a hammer and some rope. Their charged encounter propels Evangeline's past into the present and sparks a change in all their lives.
Meanwhile ten year old Tess, mute since the loss of her youngest sister, attempts to escape. Will getting lost help her discover where she belongs?
As the rainy season descends, and each of the family are separated by flood, they realise nothing is what it seems.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
Bees are everywhere at the moment: as they disappear from the world they appear on books as a symbol of our ecosystem's fragility and our interdependency with these industrious creatures.
Their sweet cells gild the cover of one of the finest novels I've read this year: a lyrical story of secrets and grief that reveals itself in a finely structured honeycomb. The sedate pace at which the story unfolds mirrors the bees own unhurried production.
Since her younger sister died after a long illness, Tess has fallen silent though her mind is anything but quiet. Her mother, Evangeline, has stopped painting. Her father, Stefan, is worried about his hives. And then he finds the wreckage of a truck and two skeletons in the lush bush where they have made their farm home. The local township, which includes former members of the alternative Hive community where Evangeline once lived before it burned down, speculates on who the victims might be.
Currents and cross currents flow through every system of nature and society in Juchau's world: the river, where Jim first sees Evangeline and joins her in the fast running waters; among the bees, where production is slowing. And within the community, where much is unsaid. Tess is drawn with especially fine sensitivity and affection, on the cusp of adolescence, struggling to understand how adults navigate the world.
About the Author
Mireille is a hugely talented, up and coming Australian novelist and The World Without Us is her third novel. Her first, Machines for Feeling was shortlisted for the 1999 Vogel/Australian Literary Award and the second, Burning In, was published by Giramondo Publishing in 2007. It was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2008, Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2008, the Age Book of the Year Award 2008 and the Nita B. Kibble Award 2008.
The World Without Us was a revelation, a masterly story involving the refuge of silence, the fate of bees, and the shadows of old sins * Alberto Manguel, Australian Book Review Books of the Year *
Powerful and poetic ... The slow unfolding of the truth, layer after layer, is superbly done; though this novel is too classy to pigeonhole as a thriller, it has all the pace and invention of the classic thriller. What makes it unforgettable is Juchau's sensitive portrayal of a family poleaxed by grief * Kate Saunders, The Times *
Almost any page of this astonishing novel offers proof of a writer of great poetic power ... An extraordinarily vivid novel, elegant, convincing, intelligent and profoundly moving * Guardian *
Understated and calm, and yet thoroughly captivating. Meticulously researched and vividly described, The World Without Us is detailed and emotionally fraught, its portrait of love and loss possessing an almost timeless quality. Juchau confirms an eternal concept: when the past holds such pain, and the future such dread, sometimes all one can do is muddle through the present * Independent on Sunday *
A bright, bracing marvel of a book ... Her prose is a marvel of balance: witty and sensual, self-aware but not jaded, and capable of making poetry from anything * Australian *
I was captivated by Juchau's extraordinary insight ... She reminds us that life itself has a force that is difficult to suppress * Saturday Paper *
The strength and poise of Juchau's writing ... Shows hers is obviously, a formidable talent that is capable of performing literary alchemy * Sydney Morning Herald *
Juchau's writing is lilting and poetic. She has a painterly eye; her descriptions of the natural environment are as finely wrought as her observation of human interactions * Big Issue *
After reading The World Without Us you could turn the book over and start again. It's one of those novels that stays with you long after reading. Poignant and sad, yet poetic and uplifting, it's truly a novel of its time * Better Reading *
In structuring its environmental themes around various mysteries, she creates constant suspense ... The achievement of The World Without Us lies in its suggestion that our relationship to a changed environment is today's rather than tomorrow's story -- Luke Brown * Financial Times *
A haunting tale of climate change and the effect of industry on the environment. Beautiful and sad * Emerald Street *
Wonderfully vivid writing and powers of description ... Juchau has a lyrical style and a great appreciation of the natural world ... The world emerges as a vast and bracing place, one that goes on - with or without us * Irish Times *
Elegantly poised and controlled * Times Literary Supplement *