The Service of Clouds
"It is 1907 and the Blue Mountains are filled with the grand dreams of elsewhere. Eureka Jones, a young pharmacist's assistant with historical eyes, falls in love with Harry Kitchings, a man who takes pictures of clouds and succumbs to the 'madness of photography'. Their love turns the mountains sapphire blue.
"Set in a vast landscape haunted by sadness and the stories of romance which drift across it, The Service of Clouds combines the lushness of Marquez and the tenderness of Ondaatje to explore passion, illness, and the secret desires men and women bring to mountains."
About the Author:
Delia Falconer was born in Sydney in 1966 and now writes and teaches creative writing in Melbourne. In 1992, she won the Independent's Young Writer of the Year Award, and in 1994 she was awarded first prize in the Island Essay Competition and the HQ/Joop! Short Story Competition. Her short stories have appeared in the Age, Australian Love Stories, and Picador New Writing. This is her first novel.
The year the Hydro Majestic Hotel failed as a hydropathic institute Harry Kitchings fell in love with the air and stayed. Les Curtain began to feel the dusk in his lungs. It was a romantic year. Men carried thermometers and dreamed of women struck by lightning. Postmen hauled packets filled with love and human hair. Women carried notebooks and pressed storms in them like flowers. You could feel our love rising from the mountaintops. At least that is how Harry Kitchings might tell it.
What were we in love with? That is an awkward question. If I were to reply that we loved each other it would be for the sake of expediency and politeness. But it is only a half-truth unsuited to this time in that Blue Mountains town when the clouds at the end of every street were filled with the grand dreams of elsewhere. It is more accurate to say that our lives were lived in the service of these clouds which took the forms of our desires. We loved them with a passion that expanded and filled the sky. It was our clouds, for example, which boys carried in photographs to the trenches. The sight comforted them for they knew that these were different from German clouds which were full of dead men's souls. It was among our clouds that consumptives learned to chew mist instead of words, to grasp love or be smothered by it. Their bodies mapped the symptoms of our strange yearnings: our thirst to hear voices in the air, to feel the liquid tremors of the earth. If you place your head on a consumptive's chest you can hear waterfalls. I know. I have done it.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1997.
This novel was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 1998.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Larrikin Literature Page.
Last modified: May 18, 2001.