Cassandra Austin author of ALL FALL DOWN – What Inspired Her
Today we welcome Cassandra Austin to Booklover Book Reviews to share the inspiration behind her debut novel All Fall Down.
And, thanks to Penguin Random House Australia, we have a paperback copy to giveaway.
I blame the existence of my novel All Fall Down on Mr. Causabon. Remember Mr. Causabon? Dorothea’s unbearably dry and pedantic husband in one of my favourite novels; George Eliot’s Middlemarch? Mr. Causabon was utterly consumed with his masterpiece, had devoted his life to the finding of the ‘key to all mythologies’, which, in layman’s terms, is the one key, the one thematic underpinning ALL MYTHOLOGY in the world. What a Herculean and impossible project.
Or was it?
I always felt a guilty sympathy for the brittle academic husk of a man, perhaps because I wanted to read his key to all mythologies. His idea of what that might be. Unfortunately, Mr. Causabon never completed his book, but within decades of Eliot’s novel someone else did—and did it right. In The Golden Bough (1890), Joseph Frazer, a folklorist or proto-anthropologist, argued that behind more or less every culture’s mythology was the murky residue of human sacrifice. Even Christianity, Jesus Christ and his sacrifice and resurrection, he argued to the horror of his pious contemporaries, was a reflection of older myths about the sacrifice and return of the king.
Is this true? Can human sacrifice underpin nearly every story we’ve told ourselves? Well, it’s certainly borne out by the Greek tragedies, the Bible, the oral storytelling traditions of Norse mythology, Japanese legends of hitobashira (the human pillar), Indian ‘Narabali’, the wickerman used by the Celts, the Aztec mythology of the origin of mankind, and even our beloved nursery rhymes.
Now to say my novel draws upon this deep and bloody insight about human sacrifice is no more than to join a very long line featuring names infinitely more illustrious than mine—from Freud, to TS Eliot, to Wittgenstein and beyond. The Golden Bough has left its bloody fingerprints on the entire culture. However, human sacrifices are generally about altars and angry gods and such, aren’t they? And my novel is about a bridge falling down. Well, human sacrifice is at the heart of that too.
London Bridge is Falling Down. We all chanted that nursery rhyme at school. It’s relentless repetition haunted me. It fell no matter how they tried to build it up: with wood and clay; it washes away, with bricks and mortar; it will not stay, with iron and steel; it bends and bows, with silver and gold; which are stolen away—until they set a man to watch all night. And of course, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, they weren’t suggesting setting up a guard to protect the bridge from anyone who might have an interest in seeing it fall, no; the line refers to—you guessed it—the need to sacrifice someone to it.
So yes, my novel, All Fall Down is the lovechild of ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ and The Golden Bough. But I need to add that while I thought, given the great and grand drama of human sacrifice, that I would be writing a horror novel or at least a thriller—a bridge falls down in Outback Australia and into town slinks a man who says the way to keep it up is via human sacrifice—that isn’t the case. And I guess it’s because I ended up learning the lesson of dear old Mr. Causabon; which is to say, ideas by themselves leave us dry. Certainly, ideas alone don’t make a novel. An idea needs to be encased in flesh and given a heart and a strong set of lungs and legs to walk around on. So while human sacrifice is still foundational to All Fall Down, like a body beneath the floorboards, it’s the chracters, the people, who make the story worth telling.
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All Fall Down Synopsis:
When a bridge in the small outback town of Mululuk mysteriously collapses, the town is cut off from the world, and its citizens from each other.
An unwilling guest to Mululuk, teenage Rachel has been sent from Melbourne to stay with her uncle whilst events at home settle down. She quickly finds herself embroiled in the town’s quest for the truth about the bridge and in the all too adult world of a dangerous love triangle between Shane, Janice and Craig.
Janice wakes from a car accident confused and faced with questions that she is unable to answer. Secrets she thought were buried are coming to the surface and with tensions mounting, she knows it is time to make a choice.
Gussy knows all there is to know about Mululuk and its citizens. The fallen bridge however is a mystery even to her and she is desperate to get to the bottom of events. It is Gussy’s old friend Charlie, a mysterious, scruffy and charismatic alcoholic, who has a terrifying plan for how to rebuild the bridge.
Wry, rich and unsettling, All Fall Down is a starkly Australian gothic novel about a community divided, the secrets we keep, and a chilling belief in how to build a bridge strong and safe.
◊ Read an excerpt from this novel
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About the Author, Cassandra Austin
Born in 1969, Cassandra Austin grew up in outback NSW but completed her formal education at Melbourne University with an MA in Criminology. She also has an MA in Creative Writing from RMIT. Austin has previously written one novella, Seeing George, published by Random House in 2004. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children, but returns to Australia regularly.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia we have a paperback copy of All Fall Down to giveaway to one lucky reader.
- Australian mailing addresses only
- extra entries for spreading the word via Twitter and Facebook/Google+/Webpage
- extra entries for registered participants of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017
- entries close midnight 28 February 2017
- the winner will be randomly selected and must respond to my email requesting their mailing address within 5 days otherwise their prize will be forfeited and another winner selected
SORRY, ENTRIES CLOSED – Winner announced here.