REVIEW: THE HISTORIAN'S DAUGHTER BY RASHIDA MURPHY

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.

The Historian's Daughter

I’ve heard so many good things about Rashida Murphy’s book, The Historian’s Daughter, that I had to read it for myself. Here’s the blurb:

In an old house with ‘too many windows and women’, high in the Indian hills, young Hannah lives with her older sister Gloria; her two older brothers; her mother – the Magician; a colourful assortment of aunts, blow-ins and misfits; and her father – the Historian. It is a world of secrets, jealousies and lies, ruled by the Historian but smoothed over by the Magician, whose kindnesses and wisdom bring homely comfort and all-enveloping love to a ramshackle building that seems destined for chaos.

And then one day the Magician is gone, Gloria is gone, and the Historian has spirited Hannah and her brothers away to a new and at first bewildering life in Perth. As Hannah grows and makes her own way through Australian life, an education and friendships, she begins to penetrate to the heart of one of the old house’s greatest secrets – and to the meaning of her own existence.

The Historian’s Daughter is a slow-burner novel narrated by Hannah, an intelligent and vulnerable character who dislikes her father and adores her mother. Her life, she discovers, is built on an unsteady foundation of secrets and lies, which readers may gather is alluded to through the names the Historian and the Magician. Complex characters fill out the narrative, which speaks of longing and belonging, identity and uncertainty, and love and loss.

Murphy’s prose is sensory and evocative: “The garden smelled of crushed peppermint and chocolate.” (p117) Her story is mysterious and subtly drawn – the words are a pleasure to roll the tongue around. One for lovers of literary fiction.

“I said nothing, watching the cars weave around roundabouts and speed up n the straight road towards the Tonkin Highway. Tall trees, a flutter of cockatoos and the sky a blank canvas stretched overhead, the rumble of planes taking off and the Seekers playing ‘Red Rubber Ball’ on the radio. No scooters, rickshaws, children tapping at car windows …” (p217)

Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of UWA Publishing.