After Story by Larissa Behrendt

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After Story is a compelling and deeply moving narrative written by Larissa Behrendt, a First Nation’s writer, lawyer and filmmaker. This is her third novel and begins with a map of a literary tour of England undertaken by Indigenous mother and daughter, Della and Jasmine. This is followed by a prologue from Della reliving the time when she realised her young daughter Brittany was missing.

Twenty-five years on, lawyer Jasmine takes Della on an English literary tour visiting homes and landmarks of well-known writers. It is during this tour that a very young girl disappears from Hampstead Heath which strikes at the heart of both main characters in different ways. The chapters, written in first person, alternate between Della and Jasmine. They give the reader important insights into individual behaviours, thoughts and feelings as well different versions of the same interactions that take place between the two.

Jasmine had hoped that the trip would be a chance for both herself and Della to reconnect and perhaps provide an element of greater understanding on the tragic event in their past which has shaped who they are now. In this multi-layered story, the reader is treated to the wisdom of Della, her connection to her culture and her all-encompassing grief over the loss of both Brittany and her beloved husband Jimmy. Jasmine, who pointedly escaped her small-town life as soon as possible, comes full circle in her gradual understanding of Della’s deeply hidden past trauma and her own loss of connection to family and story. The author has also cleverly interwoven into the story layers, British history and literature, as well as giving an honest account of white Australia’s racist past and present.

After Story is a truly special book and would make an excellent read for sharing in Book Clubs and Book Club notes are available from the publisher. In the final pages of the book are Jasmine’s Tour Reading List and Notes on the Literary Tour which may encourage the reader to take a tour of their own post-COVID or read their way through the extensive book list.

Themes: Aboriginal Culture, English Literary Tour, Tragedy, Relationships, Family.

Kathryn Beilby