REVIEW: THE BREAK BY DEB FITZPATRICK

Due to time restraints while I work on my own novel, reviews on this site will now comprise a book blurb and a short response.

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I’ve been wanting to read The Break by Deb Fitzpatrick for some time, and given that she’s my guest at Stories on Stage on August 3, the time was right. Here’s the blurb:

The south-west coast is the kind of place people escape to. Unless you have lived there all your life, in which case, you long to get away.

Rosie and Cray chuck in their city jobs for Margaret River while Liza, Ferg and Sam have been there forever, working the family farm. Under pressure from developers the families unite against change. But when a natural disaster strikes, change is inevitable.

The Break is a quiet, subtle read with a distinctively Australian voice (and equally distinctive West Australian flavour) that builds slowly, but surely to its wrenching climax. Based on the real events of the Gracetown cliff collapse in 1996, readers familiar with the event, Western Australia’s worst natural disaster, will be led to the inevitable, unsettling outcome. There’s no sensationalism here – mirroring Rosie’s disdain for such an approach in journalism – but the careful crafting of a story that’s foreshadowed by what is known, and a few well-placed suggestions. (I guessed which character would not make it, and I cried inside, not wanting my theory to be right, but it made sense).

Surfing is one of the big themes in the book – riding on freedom, to freedom. To follow that theme, The Break is about breaks in more ways than one – the break from city life, from parental expectations, from bad choices, from prejudice, from relationships, from going with the flow … and the breaking of rock from earth. Much of the novel is like coasting on a wave as Fitzpatrick draws two very different couples together, until an unseen wave surges upwards to a peak before crashing and dumping, and then, as the wind dies and the waves subside, the tide ebbs and flows … and life goes on.

I enjoyed Fitzpatrick’s writing style, which blends casual slang and colloquialisms with the more poetic, textured and literary descriptions of the landscape. Having met her in person, it reminded me of her … very much.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $24.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Fremantle Press.