Review Blog

Dec 06 2018

The fragments by Toni Jordan

cover image

Text, 2018. ISBN 9781925773132
(Age: Adolescent - Adult) Highly recommended. This is a most interesting book, captivatingly told by two narrators and set in different eras and indeed in different countries. The link is drawn by the narrative of the life and work of a famous American writer, Inge Karlson, and the exhibition of a few fragments of her last novel that was largely destroyed in a fire in which she perished in the late 1930s in New York. In this well-constructed narrative, as we move between eras, we are privileged to understand the worlds of the two women.
The narrative begins in 1986 where the scraps of paper that were collected after a terrible fire destroyed the apartment and the life of Karlson in New York, are in a very special exhibition in Brisbane. It is the enthusiasm of Caddie, a bookseller in modern Brisbane, for the work of Karlson, that precipitates her quest to discover more about the writer after a comment made by a visitor to the exhibition. As she was leaving the exhibition, an older woman quoted the lines that were on one scrap, but added an extra phrase that intrigued Caddie. How this woman knew more words than were in 'the fragments' on exhibit, Caddie wonders, shocked by hearing a quotation that she has never heard before. Caddie decides to seek more information on Karlson, if it is possible, but her main quest is to find the visitor and to seek an answer to the enigma that is puzzling her.
We discover much about the strength of the young woman, and, similarly, about the writer herself. We know more than Caddie does in the end, as her quest does not give her the answer, but she is honoured by the new friendship with the American woman. This intriguing story is constructed well, taking us easily between the two eras and revealing much about the two women and their lives in such disparate time and countries. I would recommend it highly for adolescent and adult reading. Book Club notes are available.
Elizabeth Bondar

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