Before I Wake
John A Scott
"With evening, cloud begins to close down the sky. Blanket upon blanket. As if it wished to hatch some unnatural thing from this town.
"I will tell you what these clouds, what this incessant humidity, have hatched. In me. They have hatched the past.
"Jonathan Ford, childless at 43, moves restlessly through other people's lives. From Australia to Europe he pursues a series of ill-fated relationships with the vulnerable and the insecure. In turn he is pursued by his past, whose echoes he finds all around him: in Danielle, a young French poet condemned to perpetual childhood. In the ageing Violet, wickedly irreverent even as she struggles through her days alone in a council flat. In the flawed genius of the painter Malcolm Richardson. In many lives, ordinary and extraordinary, that he changes in the profoundest ways. It is through two sisters, themselves once hostage to the past, that Ford finally awakens to the present.
"This is a story to treasure, a journey through what it means to be human, told with exquisite feeling by the award-winning author of What I Have Written."
The day will come. First trace of dawn bleaching the sky to bone-pallor. The sun, still liquid, bulging at the ocean's rim, tearing itself upwards - horizon dragging at its underbelly - a sheer elasticity of light, rising, breaking free into a perfect blinding globe.
And with it, all the sudden rustling and twittering of earth will sweep a meridian of petty noise across this place at the speed of bird-flock. That, and the after-rush of heat, filling the town, careering through its tin-roofed cottages, hugging and enveloping the contours of every object - step and chair and lamp - rising like the swollen waters of flood, until we drown.
But not yet. .
In my bedroom, in the still-remaining dark, I listen to the constant fall of Donna's breath, shot through with its whistling pitches of asthma, wave upon wave, as thought the moisture of the air were somehow straining through her throat. Our bodies wound in the dampened linen, the flesh scarcely touching and yet seared together in a glistening weld. A heat as might be generated by decay.
From the Penguin paperback edition, 1996.
This novel was shortlisted the Miles Franklin Award in 1997.
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Last modified: December 29, 2004.