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When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life.
Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.
It starts with a fisherman hunting for tuna, his sidekick a young seal as fast as quicksilver, a relationship forged in blood and fishmeat, but broken by the black heft of the sea; then a young man whose mother burned up outside, the scorch marks still on the grass, who fears the same fate for his sister so builds her a coffin, even though she's still breathing and very much alive; a water rat swimming upriver, a god in his element until he finds that some gods are more powerful than others; a flock of cormorants, pecking out the eyes of the slow-witted wombats on a local farm, and the sad old man who swears bloody vengeance; and more, and more, until it ends with a fisherman, who used to hunt for tuna, with a seal for a sidekick, as fast as quicksilver... SHORTLISTED FOR THE READINGS PRIZE FOR NEW AUSTRALIAN FICTION
Robbie Arnott is a vivid and bold new voice in Australian fiction - Danielle Wood
Ambitious storytelling from a stunning new Australian voice. Flames is constantly surprising-I never knew where the story would take me next. This book has a lovely sense of wonder for the world. It's brimming with heart and compassion. - Rohan Wilson
Visionary, vivid, full of audacious transformations: there's a marvellous energy to this writing that returns the world to us aflame. A brilliant and wholly original debut. - Gail Jones
A strange and joyous marvel. - Richard Flanagan
Publication date: 01/11/2018
Publisher: Atlantic Books
|Publication date:||1st November 2018|
|Genres:||Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Literary Fiction, Star Books,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Fantasy,|
Robbie Arnott was born in Launceston in 1989. His writing has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He won the 2015 Tasmanian Young Writers' Fellowship and the 2014 Scribe Non-fiction Prize for Young Writers. He lives in Hobart.More About Robbie Arnott