Review: The Diamond Anchor by Jennifer Mills

diamond_anchor.jpg Jennifer Mills
University of Queensland Press, 314 pp.
Source: review copy
Review by Bernadette Gooden

Here is a beautifully written novel about storytelling. In The Diamond Anchor the art of story telling is portrayed in all its different forms, from personal history to history of a place and time, family saga and intimate childhood memories. There are tales tall and true, a dramatic love story and the mundane details of a life lived simply in an ordinary way in extraordinary times.

May is getting to the end of her life. She is still working in her old pub, The Diamond Anchor, situated in a small coastal mining community in New South Wales. Her father won the pub in a card game when she was born and she has lived her entire life under its roof. Her children and developers are putting pressure on her to sell up her now valuable bit of coastal real estate. An unexpected letter from her friend Grace, whom she hasn't seen since they were young women, forces her to review her life and examine their friendship and the events that made them take very different paths. The old pub becomes a metaphor for May's memory as she enters closed up rooms and opens drawers, examining long forgotten items and letters, everything falling apart and covered with dust. She starts to write a letter to Grace to try to trace the threads of what happened to them.

May takes us back and tells the wonderful story of seventy years of her family life and the small town she lives in, where everyone knows everyone and they all help each other through good times and bad. As a child she knew every nook and cranny of the natural world around her, the sea and the bush. Grace's family moved to the area when May was a young child and the two girls became close friends. Blessed with a gift for storytelling inherited from her Irish father, May charmed and thrilled Grace. Their friendship grew as they enjoyed a type of childhood that is gone now, where kids spent hours roaming outside, making their own world from make-believe and sometimes harsh reality. Events shrouded in mystery are slowly revealed that explain what tore their friendship apart, May staying to marry and run the pub, Grace leaving to go to university, marry and live an apparently glamorous life travelling the world. Now, many years later Grace is reaching out to May and she must decide whether too much has happened for them to go back to what they had. She has her memories and the beautiful ongoing stories of her beloved community and The Diamond Anchor.

I couldn't put this book down until I had read the whole story, until I got all the answers. The writing is evocative and fresh and the characters well drawn. All the threads of the many levels of storytelling, true or false, travel together at a wonderful pace to a great ending. The theme of examining one's life and facing the truth about the people and events that have shaped us, no matter how painful, rings true for most of us who, with "maturity", have a little perspective on our lives (put your hands up all you baby boomers!). I'm sure we all think about how things would have turned out if we had taken different paths to the ones we chose and what we would do if we had a second chance.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 29, 2009 12:43 PM.

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