The cold empty season,
This review is from: Wintering (Hardcover)
Silent, mysterious, Buddha-like, Benny lies in a white, sanitized hospital room, hanging somewhere between life and death. His only visitor is Jack Rudd who sits, also silent, remembering his past with Benny and trying to make sense of all they experienced together. Jack remembers how they first met in Cairns, Queensland. They were both members of the alternate society and both 'men-of-the-road', though Benny was a child of the sixties counter-culture, while Jack is a much younger 'drop-out'. Together they wander South into New South Wales, onto the New England Tablelands, where Benny knows of a small Commune in an old, rundown farmhouse. "These people won't have betrayed the cause," Benny assures Jack. When Jack leaves the hospital room he often finds himself wandering to Bridget's place, a house near the hospital. Bridget is an Aboriginal activist and was once in a relationship with Jack. Now estranged Jack can only hang outside, behind convenient foliage, also remembering his past with Bridget. The story of Benny and Bridget will intertwine, though not in a friendly way, and Jack will find himself hung between the two, lost and confused. Taking a pen he begins to write this novel, in an attempt to bring 'enlightenment' to his confused world.
This story is set in Australia in the years 1987 and 1988. It is a story of civil movements and apparently lost causes, though most of all it is a story of three personal lives and the struggle for meaning within an apparently confused and empty world. This book asks, "What is the right thing to do?" Negative answers are easy to understand, but positive answers, though, are not easily come by. In their search to find meaning Bridget and Jack even resort to fiction in an attempt to 'discover', to 'manufacture' truth.
Kelleher has written this book in an unusual style. The text is address to Benny: he is the constant "You" of the narrative. Much of the book is thus a monologue. But also some of the text is written in the form of a play. The fiction created by Jack and Bridget is printed in italicized script. The text jumps from the present to the past and back again. It jumps from Benny's to Bridget's story and back. It jumps from 'reality' to fiction and back. Writing in this manner Kelleher has created an interesting novel, though it is at times difficult to follow exactly which 'story' we are reading.
The characterization is fully developed and the three main people certainly 'live' for the reader. Van is also a memorable creation.
Kelleher is better known for his award winning children's science fiction stories, but this adult novel is a fine effort and one I would happily recommend to friends.