In this award-winning work of fiction, Ellen van Neerven takes her readers on a journey that is mythical, mystical and still achingly real.
Over three parts, she takes traditional storytelling and gives it a unique, contemporary twist. In ‘Heat’, we meet several generations of the Kresinger family and the legacy left by the mysterious Pearl. In ‘Water’, a futuristic world is imagined and the fate of a people threatened. In ‘Light’, familial ties are challenged and characters are caught between a desire for freedom and a sense of belonging.
Heat and Light presents an intriguing collection while heralding the arrival of an exciting new talent in Australian writing.
This book has such a beautiful cover, and the writing inside is lyrical and imaginative and visual. Ellen has done a wonderful job of capturing the socio-economic environment of her characters, and through different stories, she captures her characters’ personalities and vulnerabilities.
I read another reviewer describe this book as “slow-burning”, and it’s an extremely accurate way to summarise the three stories: Heat, Water and Light. Each section of the book has small chapters that all contribute to an overarching storyline. The characters all seem disjointed from each other, and lost. Ellen Van Neerven’s storytelling stitches them together temporarily in order to present their story to the reader. And then the section ends, and we are thrust into a different story.
This book is heartbreaking, but from character faults and character actions, not from some major event. This book draws upon Indigenous themes, and illustrates them with subtly and fluidity. Ellen Van Neerven has a real skill for flowing writing, and draws upon very little dialogue to do so.
Water was probably my least favourite of the three sections. Ellen mixed lyrical, literary writing with a speculative setting, and as a result, the story kind of dragged. It took a while to get going, and wasn’t as vibrant or intriguing as her other stories.
I’d recommend this novel to literary readers, and also to lovers of Australian literature. This won the 2013 David Unaipon Award and is wonderfully written.