Review: Salt Rain by Sarah Armstrong

salt_rain.jpg Salt Rain
Sarah Armstrong
Allen & Unwin

[This novel has been shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award.]

Sarah Armstrong's first novel, Salt Rain, has a lot of things going for it: it's short (224 pages), it keeps its roll-call of characters to a minimum, it keeps the story-line moving ever onward, and it keeps the time-frame of the plot to a period of only a month or two.

I don't want to seem patronising when I say that but a lot of first novels feel rather bloated in terms of character numbers, time-frame and page-count, and this one doesn't. And in my view that's a big plus right from the outset.

Salt Rain concerns the story of Allie, a fourteen-year-old girl living with her single mother Mae in Sydney. One night Mae goes missing and her sister Julia arrives to take Allie back to her mother's rain-forest valley home. There she waits for news of her mother, meeting her extended family and attempting to piece together the true story of her mother and of her own birth. Mae has been a story-teller, embellishing and polishing her history for Allie's benefit, which has left Allie with a distorted view of her own beginnings: including the true identity of her father. Was it Saul, the First Love (sic), who still lives next door to Julia, or the balloon man from the fair as Mae always made out?

Allie has to cross a number of boundaries during her journey into the truth about her family, with most of the crossings being painful. The only trouble is, the revelations, as they come to light, are meant to be surprising, yet few of them are unguessable. Younger readers might find the final truth disturbing, older ones - such as the present reviewer - have seen it before. But that is not to say that the journey is unsatisfying. On the contrary, Armstrong has a fine readable style, she sketches interesting characters and landscapes; though having Mae, the most interesting of the bunch, off-stage for the bulk of the book is a bit of a dampener.

There's a lot of promise here and I look forward to her future work.

Current Matilda ranking for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award:

1. The White Earth by Andrew McGahan
2. Salt Rain by Sarah Armstrong

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 17, 2005 3:40 PM.

Australian Author Birthdays was the previous entry in this blog.

Poem: "Remainders" by Ganesha (Louis Esson) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en