This second, Stella Prize shortlisted novel from Stephanie Bishop has been described by some as ‘domestic fiction’. For me, the term domestic subjugates this beautifully articulate book to the often dismissed realm of women’s fiction.
This is a family drama written in prose reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. It follows the marriage of Charlotte and Henry after the birth of their first child, and maps that difficult, lonely struggle of a young mother caring for young children. The pair move to Australia in hope that the weather will ‘cure’ Charlotte of her sickly state, but instead she suffers from a bone-aching longing for home. What is home? Is it something we carry around within ourselves? Or a place?
This is a book I will carry around with me as it echoes in the dark chambers of my person. Beyond this I’m left surprised that there are so few books mapping this territory, territory that so many know intimately, but only now are we beginning to charter.
Here is Bishop with a brilliant insight – only one of many illuminating moments – on growth:
“How strange it is to see, every day, the stark evidence of a person’s disappearance, quite indistinguishable from a person’s becoming. Those early versions of ourselves, she thinks, that vanish over an ordinary course of days.”