Murray Bail is one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers, but he’s not an immediately accessible novelist. His style is often challenging and requires patience and concentration. His latest book The Voyage is certainly a demanding read and although original and inventive in its use of language and style, it’s a book that ultimately I found unsatisfying. There are no chapters or paragraphs, few breaks in the headlong rush of the narrative, and with some odd punctuation. Most confusing of all is the lack of chronology and rapid shifts in time and place, sometimes within the same sentence. It’s the story of Frank Delage, who has invented an innovative and technically advanced piano and arrives in Vienna hoping to sell it in Europe. Vienna, with its rich and traditional musical heritage, is not perhaps the best choice for such a venture, and unsurprisingly his business trip is not a success. He returns to Australia by boat, giving himself time to muse on his experience in Vienna, the people he met there, and the differences between Europe seeped in the culture of the past and the new, modern, sometimes brash, Australia he comes from. As he reflects on his time in Vienna, we are inside Frank’s head, inside his thoughts and observations, and up to a point this is both engaging and compelling. But he remains a vehicle for Bail’s own observations and never really comes alive as a fully-fledged character. Nor do the other main characters in the novel. For those who are Bail fans and enjoy his emphasis on style over story, this will no doubt be a welcome addition to his oeuvre, but for me it didn’t work, and I found it heavy-going.
on 21 March 2015
I am puzzled. Presumably authors write books because they want others to read them? A book with no chapters and a new paragraph every 10 pages if you are lucky is not easy to read. If the action was clear and interesting one might just persevere, but I am afraid that after ploughing through one third of it, I still don.t know what's going on.
on 24 July 2014
I couldn't warm to this at all,and abandoned it after a few pages. It's very rambling, and written in a odd style, with huge blocks of dense text. The story was confusing, and the narrative jumped around.
Reviewed in exchange for a preview Kindle copy.