Migration, dislocation, loneliness and loss of self are incisively explored in this novel by Stephanie Bishop. It’s the 1960s and Charlotte and Henry live in Cambridge with their young children. Henry, an academic at a low grade university, finds England too cold, directionless and yearns for a new experience in the sun. Australia beckons. But Charlotte is not so sure – she is much less inclined for adventure and loves her known world despite its drawbacks.
However, she succumbs to Henry’s desires and before too long they find themselves in Perth, an alien environment of intense sun and harsh light with little respite. Charlotte, now a mother of two, in just pre-feminist days, is adrift in the dreary world of housewifery and childcare.
Bishop partly based her novel on the experience of her grandparents who migrated to Australia in the 60s. In precise but flowing prose, she evokes the gradual breakdown of a marriage and the dislocation of a young woman who has nowhere to turn. Quietly sad, sometimes hopeful, we are left wondering what the final outcome will be. And we’re not entirely sure that Charlotte knows either. But the writing is lucid and paints captivating pictures of the different physical and mental landscapes of Charlotte’s life.