‘Aphelion’ by Emily Ballou

2007, 493 p

There is such a thing as too much.  Chocolate, for example. Or wine. Or, as in the case of ‘Aphelion’ by Emily Ballou, too much scenery, too many storylines, too much thinking, too much talk, too many themes, too much imagery, too many pages, too much ‘luminous’ prose.

The book is set in the Snowy Mountains, in a small town that has been relocated as part of the hydro-electric scheme.  Four generations of women live in the family home- the 101 year old Hortense, her 80 year old daughter Esme, Esme’s niece Byrne (about 50) and her own daughter Lucetta (20 plus).  Into this seething mass of mother/daughter/aunt entanglement comes young Rhett from next door, returning to the family home after the death of his mother, bringing with him Hazel the American museum curator who barely speaks to her mother.   You can probably imagine the multiple themes here: motherhood, regret, what-ifs, relocation, dislocation, nostalgia etc. etc. etc.

This book felt like a Sunday evening serial on the ABC with lots of Australian scenery (just in case it can be flogged off to British television), iss-ews that we can all identify with, and multiple storylines.

But it wasn’t all bad.  In fact, even though the book was overdue and I was accruing a daily penalty, I wanted to keep it until I had finished it.  Perhaps, in spite of all these qualifications and criticisms, the fact that I wanted to reach the end is the most important response of all.

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