The Last Magician
Janette Turner Hospital
"Cat, Chadie, Robbie and Catherine once shared a childhood summer in a Queensland rainforest. But a death intruded on their charmed circle, binding them to complicity and silence.
"Decades later the past continues to fester. Memories leach through to the present, in the same way as the desperate underside of a corrupt Sydney breaks through into tidy lives and well-kept streets. Charlie, the Chinese-Australian photographer, is the last magician. It is he who monitors and records everything, who seeks the silent Cat through physical and emotional infernos.
"With its startling and seamless conjunctions of the erudite and demotic, this dazzling novel is richly textured and intellectually challenging, a tour de force from our most elegantly seductive writer."
"Her prose crackles with energy and imaginative excitement." - Ron Loewinsohn, New York Times Book Review
"This is one author who was a class act right from the start, with prose and plot line as strong and sinuous as a jungle vine." - Kate Veitch, Sydney Morning Herald
"There is an extraordinary intelligence at work here." - Eileen Barrett, San Francisco Chronicle
"Hospital . . . is a masterly stylist, accomplishing intellectual complexity and mimetic sensuality with dazzling ease. [Her writing] is pungent with anger, telling, with bitterly precise insights of experienced suffering, what it is like to be alive today ... What makes Janette Turner Hospital much more than an angry young stylist, however, is the dimension of her vision, which looks past anger towards a difficult compassion." - Alison Croggon, Melbourne Sunday Herald
In the middle of the journey, I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.
No. That is not the way to put it. In the middle of darkness, I came to the black fact that there was no straight way - no way on, no way out. This knowledge engulfed me, a thick sack over the head. Suffocation was the least of it.
Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell of that wood.
Do you see the two boulders where the rapids make a sort of courteous ruffle of detour? That was where the bones were found. They were wedged deep down, pushed, prodded under the rocks with the blunt end of something far more complex and disturbing than hate, and they might have been missed for another ten years.
But I mustn't think of that now. I cannot start there.
The wood is dark, and full of the soft rot and manic growth we call rainforest. The rainforest has always spawned secrets. Light itself is clandestine here. Under the matted canopy the sun becomes furtive, it flickers, it advances by stealth, it hides, it is coy, it sneaks down through the tangle of treetops, creepers, leggy bird's-nest ferns, lianas, orchids, battling its way earthwards through layers of aerial clamour, slithering below ground fungi to breed green yeast. The rainforest smells of seduction and fermentation and death. It smells of Queensland.
From the UQP hardback edition, 1992.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2001 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Janette Turner Hospital Page.
Last modified: December 24, 2001.