The Seizure Viva La Novella prize funds three (depending on the year) short novels by Australians and New Zealanders in being edited and published. Steph was for no dollars provided with electronic copies of Welcome to Orphancorp (Marlee Jane Ward) and Formaldehyde (Jane Rawson) by the authors, and purchased The End of Seeing (Christy Collins) using her own hard-earned penguin dollars.
Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward
I loved Welcome to Orphancorp, and read it very quickly and was disappointed when it was over. Welcome to Orphancorp is our dystopian future, featuring Mirii, an Indigenous girl in the place where people go before they’re eighteen, kind of like an old-school orphanage or mission, and similar in the ways in which dehumanisation and our dystopian future combine.
This is stressful and emotional, and also features coming of age business, and the horribleness of humanity and the desire to escape and carve out one’s space, even if it’s tiny.
4 trams out of a possible 5. Liz should read it.
(Liz has a copy and it is only through her abject failure to put down Dorothy Dunnett for a couple of hours that she hasn’t read it yet.)
Formaldehyde, Jane Rawson
Jane’s fiction work often leaves me confused and slightly unsure (if ‘twice now’ can count as ‘often’); Formaldehyde is a part of that pattern. I finished with many questions: why a hand, Jane? Memories from someone else’s hand, THAT’S CREEPY, JANE. What am I missing? Who’s the other parent? WHY DON’T I UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING? Where does Benjamin go? Where does Amy go? How can Paulie become [spoilers]? How does nobody notice? Is this a commentary on immigration? Why is it set in USAmerica? Is it set in USAmerica? I think it is. What is happening? JANE. JANE.
Formaldehyde is about bureaucracy, and generations and identity, and Jane claims it’s about love but I actually think it’s more about the terribleness of humanity.
Minus an amount of tram for unexpected body horror (Yes, I know there’s an arm IN FORMALDEHYDE on the cover). 3.5 trams. Liz could read this one.
(Liz says: And I will, but there is an ARM IN FORMALDEHYDE ON THE COVER, STEPHANIE, HOW DID YOU MISS THE POTENTIAL FOR BODY HORROR?)
The End of Seeing, Christy Collins
I just finished The End of Seeing this morning, and I’ve not quite finished processing my thoughts. But speaking of the terribleness of humanity, I spent about 80% of the book desperate for the main character to stop grieving and go home so she could make an actual difference to the world and assist a man in Woomera in being granted asylum in Australia. I was anxious and so mad at her selfishness. Her selfishness! At grieving! Which, fyi, is a totally legitimate thing, to be selfish and grieve at the same time.
The End of Seeing is a really beautifully written story about refuge and emotions and displacement on both the domestic and global level. There’s this meticulous detail that I really appreciated. But it also felt at the same time a bit like those narratives that frustrate me, the travelogues that are white people going to other countries to find themselves. Ana sets out to find her husband, a photographer who allegedly drowned off the coast of Italy. On the way she meets many people, looks at many things, and eventually forgives herself for [spoiler] and realises she needs to come home and let her husband be free and to live her life, whatever that means. That coming home means she can help a man in detention at Woomera gain asylum just makes it even more like those travelogues with the white saviours and the finding themselves.
Okay, maybe I have finished processing my thoughts. 2.5 trams. No opinion on Liz’s potential enjoyment of this book.
(Liz thinks her enjoyment will be limited, and is not putting this on her list.)