Review Blog

Jul 06 2016

Here where we live by Cassie Flanagan Willanski

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Wakefield Press, 2016. ISBN 9781743054031
(Age: 16+) Recommended. The nine short stories in Here where we live are set in South Australia but their themes are universal. Cassie Flanagan Willanski's characters deal with those turning points in life when complexity is unavoidable and choices are difficult. Readers can recognise and be moved by the unintended consequences of a child's impulsive behaviour, the passage from adolescence to adulthood, the challenge of combining parenthood with long-held dreams, divorce and the death of a partner. Intertwined with these lives are the characters' relationships with Indigenous people and the landscape. Attempts to reconcile conflicted feelings in personal lives are mirrored in the search by Australians for reconciliation with their history.
The author's use of language is economical but vivid. Whether writing in the first or third person, as an adult or as a child, her skill as a short story writer is evident in her ability to create convincing characters and their worlds in a few pages. She also ensures that her readers are constantly aware of the environment, the physical sensations it evokes and its emotional impact. Interactions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are thought-provoking and capture the feelings of the participants - the sadness and confusion caused by cultural misunderstanding, and the peace of mind derived from shared experience and acceptance. Issues such as the Hindmarsh Island Bridge controversy and atomic testing in South Australia and Nevada are handled with sensitivity.
Here where we live is challenging, occasionally confronting, multifaceted and satisfying literature for mature readers.
Elizabeth Bor

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