Review Blog

Jul 16 2018

Bohemia Beach by Justine Ettler

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Transit Lounge, 2018. ISBN 9781925760002
(Age: Adult) Themes: Addiction; Musical career; Counselling. Catherine Bell is a renowned Concert musician, but everything in her life seems to be swirling in the swill of painful experience. Her 'self-medication' with regular consumption of alcohol and her affair with the somewhat capricious Tomas, while preparing for performance in Prague seems set to lead her further into the abyss . . . but she cannot see it. Ettler reveals the sad despair of the addict - completely oblivious to the poor pathway she is following and the impacts that this path will have on her career and relationships. The fact that her husband appears to be seeking a divorce, her mother is coping with a terminal illness, and a recording deal is teetering, are just side-notes in the discordant and badly played symphony of her life. At every turn, Catherine seems to be creating more problems for herself through a series of self-destructive choices. The voice of a trusted counsellor remains the only voice of stability in her life, but it is seldom loud enough for Catherine to make significant changes. Woven into this sad tale is the story of Catherine's childhood and her family dilemmas which seem to provide a link to the plot-line and setting in Prague. A destructive flood in Prague itself creates a subtle literary parallel to Catherine's alcoholic deluge, but seems to also bring her to a point of possible rescue.
With flashbacks and counselling reminiscences, the trauma of Catherine's life is revealed. Throughout the book, the author manages to deftly communicate the alcoholic's haze and driven circumstances with powerful pathos. Written with incredible skill from an accomplished writer, there are numerous literary references to other works including "Wuthering Heights" and a classic Czech tale. The author's own musical understanding and academic prowess in creative writing are evident in this very adult story. Not easily read because misery of the central character, still it is cautionary in its revelations of the powerful grip of addictive behaviour and the awful toll that this takes.
For adult readers only.
Carolyn Hull

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