Combined Reviews: Love Without Hope by Rodney Hall

love_hope.jpg Reviews of Love Without Hope by Rodney Hall
Pan Macmillan
February 2007

[This novel has been longlisted for the 2008 Miles Franklin Award.]

From the publisher's page

The elderly Mrs Shoddy suffers acute depression as a result of a bushfire that kills her beloved horses. A capable countrywoman, she loses her grip and is living in squalor when the district nurse finds her and has her committed to an insane asylum. The time is 1982; the place, a country town in NSW. The NSW Department of Lunacy is still in operation, headed by an official
with the title The Master in Lunacy.

In this powerful novel, finding herself pitted against the power of the state, Mrs Shoddy calls on her memories of her missing husband, on the spirit of her horses and on the recovery of her self-respect and resilience to create a world in which she can remain sane, even against the institutional brutality she is subjected to. And the characters in her mind become as palpable as the real people she is surrounded by.

A hymn of praise to human tenderness, the power of memory and the power of music, Love Without Hope confirms Rodney Hall's status as one of Australia's finest storytellers.


Rosemary Sorenson in "Australian Book Review": "The theme of the pageant is love,which looms large as a subject for this writer's investigation, as he makes clear with titles such as this, and his previous novel, The Last Love Story (2004). It is not love and romance, but love as the ephemeral gathering of human desire; love as an excuse to avoid confrontation with what is too grand and terrifying for our understanding. We may come close to feeling our sympathy spill over into love for characters such as Lorna Shoddy and others (the doctor, for example, who is central to an astounding scene); but this is not writing -- or a writer -- that gives in to the siren song, and the reader must also be strapped to the mast. Lorna is a little creature whose predicament is pathetic, and we are on her side, but she is to be symbolically sacrificed on the pyre created for the funeral of hope... Hall's novels, like White's, are uncompromisingly unconsoling. The bleakness of love illuminates not just this new novel but much of the Yandilli books and Just Relations. Maybe, looking at it from a sharp angle, you could say Love without Hope leaves us imagining that there may be a little after all -- hope that is, if not love. But Hall paints a grim picture of a vicious society where the dream of love is a
weakness exploited by the cruel."

Andrew Reimer in "The Sydney Morning Herald": "Where I have no doubt or reservation comes in a number of almost surrealistic episodes in which Hall's writing betrays a crisp, often sardonic intensity that also has parallels in some of White's work. One such passage - too long to quote here - describes an impromptu autopsy in the madhouse where poor Mrs Shoddy is shackled inside a hideous oubliette. There, as elsewhere in Love Without Hope, Hall's prose reveals poise, a dark wit and an accomplished writer's authority in impressively cadenced sentences."

James Bradley in "The Age": "..Love Without Hope -- and indeed much of Hall's writing -- resembles no one so much as Patrick White. More than any other Australian writer working today he shares White's sense of brooding mysticism and interest in the grotesqueries and folly of everyday life...Yet while the
intensity of White's vision can be overwhelming, there is an essential delicacy and humanity to it that Hall's novels often lack, for all the filigree of their imagining. In Love Without Hope this is particularly true -- Hall drives the proceedings so hard, so maniacally, that there is little space for the reader to take their breath, or indeed for the language to unfold itself."

Short notices

Perry Middlemiss in "Matilda": "A novel of our times dealing with the relationship between individual and state, the effects of mental illness, and the strengthening power of love."
: "What makes this book unique is the fact that the storyline is very original and ambitious. While it is not a feel-good read, it is a thought provoking and emotional read."
Michael Jordan in "The Epoch Times": "Those who believe that Australian writing is second-rate need only read Rodney Hall to be quickly persuaded otherwise. The two times winner of the Miles Franklin award has always been praised for the sheer beauty of his work, and his latest, Love Without Hope is no exception...Mr Hall's novel is at once universal and intrinsically Australian, reminiscent of other local writers such as Peter Carey and Sonya Hartnett. The complexity of themes and ideas which Mr Hall
explores will prevent Love Without Hope from being completely accessible and enjoyed by the majority, but this is a moving account of life and longing which keeps him at the forefront of Australian writing."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 24, 2008 9:31 PM.

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