Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

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After reading Six Stories for Fans of Beautiful Australian Gothic by Kathleen Jennings in, I became intrigued by the idea of the Australian Gothic novel, one that I had not considered before and picked up her slender volume Flyaway (192pp.) Beautifully written and illustrated with black and white drawings, Flyaway tells the story of Bettina, a young woman whose mother dominates her, ensuring that she acts like a lady always, beautifully dressed, obedient and very polite. Her father and two brothers are missing, whereabouts unknown, and she has lost contact with the friends that she had in her youth. When the word 'Monsters' is written on her house and she receives a note naming her as Tink, the nickname her brothers had given her, she sets out on a quest to find them.

Set in a small Australian country town, Jennings' lyrical narrative brings to life the sights and smells of the eucalypts, the dust on the unpaved roads and the mustiness of old abandoned houses. The tension is built up as with the help of Gary and Trish, friends from her past, she goes on a trip to find out what happened to her brothers. She hears stories from Gary and Trish about weird dogs prowling, a Pied Piper like man, a school covered in thorns, and a bottle to grant three wishes, and finally arrives at a familiar farmhouse, where memories from her past rise to haunt both her and the reader.

Although short, Flyaway has much to offer the reader. The combination of small-town life, beautiful bush, a protagonist wrestling with memories and eerie beings, all overlaid with a feeling of dread that leads to an unexpected conclusion left me wanting to re-read it to follow the clues and understand the magic. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, The dressmaker by Rosalie Ham and Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan are other Australian gothic tales suggested in the article.

Themes: Australian Gothic fiction, Horror, Memories.

Pat Pledger