Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.
Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
This highly acclaimed and awarded novel did little to inspire our group. The mingling of Laura and Ravi’s stories tended to confuse rather than bind, and most of us found ourselves lost in the language rather than thriving in it. Not the reaction we generally look for in a novel.
Therefore, our discussion centred mostly around travel verses tourism, as this was the only real theme we could identify with. In doing so, we shared some wonderful travel stories and chatted about the pros and cons of travelling, where it took us and what we gained from it. Most of us have travelled moderate to extensively, so it was a lively discussion.
This was all very interesting, but what were de Kretser’s questions of travel … in other words, what was she trying to say to us in this novel? Cheryle struggled big time with this book and even tackled it by reading all of Ravi’s story first, then going back and reading Laura’s. Not with any great success, but at least she gave it an honest shot!
In the end we came to the conclusion that literary fiction may not be our ideal read … but as a book club we are always up to the challenge.