I love stories that explore the meaning of ‘home’. It’s such a strong concept that every person can relate to, albeit in entirely different ways. Home can be a place, a person, a feeling, a memory. Not always positive, but always and ever stirring for the soul. This is one of the elements of Bruny by Heather Rose that I adored. The main characters that make up this story have an overwhelming sense of what home holds for their hearts, and they will do all they can to protect it.
This was what happened to Tasmanian children. A lot of us left the island in search of bigger dreams. And then, sometimes, we came back.
Having read and adored Rose’s book The Museum of Modern Love, I was struck by the derivation for the cover of Bruny. Fiery and explosive, this cover speaks to destruction, which is referred to in the opening epilogue so you’re not left hanging. This is nothing like the aforementioned Modern Love book, which was a quiet meditation on art and people’s connections. But Bruny is no less interesting.
A bomb goes off on a bridge connecting the island of Bruny to mainland Tasmania. It’s deemed a terrorist attack — but by whom? Enter UN conflict resolution specialist Astrid (Ace) Coleman who returns home to lend a hand to her twin brother who is none other than the Premier and leader of the Liberal party. He wants this all to go away, and quickly, and employs Ace to help resolve the battle over Tasmania’s future. Amidst political power plays, environmental activism and some wild conspiracies theories, Ace pursues the truth.
And this is all while her father quotes nothing but Shakespeare, her mother fights cancer, and her sister sits as opposition leader in parliament.
As an audiobook, there wasn’t a lot of production values that made it more worthwhile to listen to than read in a book. However, the narrator Zoe Carides managed to portray Ace’s American-influenced Australian accent quite well, making you believe the character that had spent decades away from home.
The action that I was expecting to occur in the book didn’t quite pan out as I had imagined — not saying there’s no action. This is an explosive book on a number of levels, and the culmination of the last few chapters was satisfying. However, it also came with a caution; we are risking so much of our homes, our people, our lives with the decisions we’re making (governmentally and individually). Greed is never good.
There ought to be a name for the kind of overwhelm that happens when you realise there are too many things to fight. If it’s not environment, then it’s human rights. If it’s not human rights, it’s women’s rights. Law and order. Gun control. Invasive species. Water pollution. Tax reform. Refugee policy. Education. Health care. The list is endless.
Bruny is witty, satirical, audacious.
You could look at the major twist in this book as highly improbable. But then, you consider what Donald Trump was suggesting about Greenland during his administration and actually, truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.
What I enjoyed most about Bruny was the political satire that subtly seeps through the pages. It was a treat to read an Australian novel that didn’t focus on day-to-day life in the ‘burbs or a farming community where people’s lives intersect on a personal level. This is political machinations, government power players, capitalism between continents. It’s utterly thrilling.
Yet, Rose still manages to create a love letter to Tasmania and this idea of fiercely defending your home in a way that invites you to reflect on your own feelings. I certainly imagined myself in a similar boat and posited what I would do in those circumstances. Tasmania is stripped bare in a way; from communities that struggle financially and the vulnerability of its land.
I also don’t know what’s more explosive — the family drama or the political quagmire that Ace is investigating. I really related to the sense of angst that abounds within the family and the lure of nature that author Heather Rose captures so viscerally. This is all despite what on the surface feels like a highly unlikely premise.
This is like a contemporary, female-driven Tom Clancy story (but written way better). Heather Rose is a brilliant author and a stunning writer. This is a book with a little bit of everything for everyone — politics, romance, family drama and environmental themes. It’s a little bonkers, but it’s pretty bloody good, too.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.