Friday, May 8, 2009

Novel of the year

So far, my vote goes to The First Touch of Light by Ruth Pettis. It is her second novel – her first, Like Small Bones, which I haven’t yet read, was short-listed for a Commonwealth Prize – and sadly her last, because she died last year.

Mary McCallum, a fine novelist herself, said in her review:
It’s 1940 and George enlists to go and fight in North Africa and Italy in WWII. First he marries Ellen and this is the small misstep on which a tragedy unfolds. George is traumatised by the war - written in superb detail by Pettis - and doesn’t write home. Ellen suffers from this and the four years he’s away devastates their relationship. Ten years on Ellen leaves George. Fifty years on, the daughter Beth goes to Italy to see where George spent the war and try to understand him better. The novel is about the terrible tensions in a marriage and inside an ordinary man, and the extraordinary circumstances that caused them. There are three voices: George, Ellen and Beth’s, and the reader moves seamlessly between them and the three different times.

Pettis’ writing in the novel is sublime; from the first word you know you are in accomplished hands. Every word is purposeful, polished, translucent.
Yes, exactly. And here is a brief note from Vanda Symon about the launch back in March. If you see The First Touch of Light in a bookshop, pick it up, read the two-page prologue and you’ll be hooked.

No comments: