Atlantic Black is the latest novel from Miles Franklin award-winning author of Black Rock White City, A S Patric. Read my review.
Atlantic Black Synopsis
In this haunting new novel, Katerina Klova and her mother are crossing the Atlantic by ocean liner. When Anne suffers a psychotic breakdown, Katerina is left alone on a ship full of strangers who span classes and stations, all of whom carry their ambitions, fears and obsessions with them. For a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of an ambassador, it’s an exciting, frightening world to navigate.
Through the eyes of Katerina and her own family’s place within a fracturing world, we see the way damage, yet also hope, are passed from one generation to another. A.S. Patrić’s writing in Atlantic Black is achingly tender, the tone merciless but heartbreaking in its compassion.
The story takes place over one day and night, New Year’s Eve, 1939. The RMS Aquitania steams across the Atlantic ocean. On the horizon the world is about to explode.
‘A powerful and mesmerising voyage into darkness. Atlantic Black creates an indelible portrait of humanity sailing towards war.’ — Heather Rose, Winner of the 2017 Stella Prize
Transit Lounge, November 2017
ISBN: 978-0-99544098-2-8 Trade PB, 288pp
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.
When I read his earlier works Las Vegas for Vegans and Bruno Kramzer, it was clear to me that A S Patric would go on to create literature that would be remembered by many. His writing style is uncompromising and thought-provoking.
His debut in long form fiction, Black Rock White City, was stunning in its complexity and powerful use of symbolism. In my review, I described his ‘exploration of the nuance of language and its usage, in celebration of beauty and capacity to both connect and marginalise’ as haunting. Now with the publication of Atlantic Black he has seemingly redefined that term.
No windows in some of the cabins, yet even portholes give little relief from a caught and trapped sensation; imprisoned despite possessing the keys to the cell. Quiet acts such as reading with the door open are common because privacy isn’t required. A small cabin oppresses so much that the passing of other passengers is an acceptable nuisance, as flies buzzing overhead are a fair trade for open windows at the height of summer.
Perhaps these glimpses are less gallery images and more like the recovered frames of film from a camera damaged in a house fire. There’s the same arbitrariness to what is preserved by random chance. Usually an image of no real consequence, yet circumstances can focus perspective. The loneliness of travel reveals loneliness everywhere else. Isolation amid the crush of people aboard an ocean liner — isolation in every frame of every moment.
Dark subject matter
It is important to note that much of this novel’s subject matter is dark, and extremely so in places… certainly not a title I’d recommend to those feeling blue.
Atlantic Black is a novel to be read in, if not one, as few sittings as possible. Embarking on its reading is like being sucked into a vortex — there’s no going back, only through.
Patric’s depiction of portents from Katerina’s childhood and what transpires over the course of a single day in the microcosm that is the RMS Aquitania, visceral and deeply unsettling. It is a sensory overload, with the narrative shifting from the extremes of grotesque and violence to the poetic and philosophical at the will of forces unseen. The reader is left feeling as though they themselves are being buffeted by the waves of the jet black Atlantic, struggling to maintain their footing on slippery decks.
The layered symbolism and metaphor, evocative and powerful. And the denouement, somehow even more shocking and haunting than all that came before it.
Do you see how the dead designed me through words? I breathed in their thoughts and their thoughts became my own. I breathe them out and they become yours. Our language is the history of the dead.
While for my personal tastes not quite as moving as Black Rock White City, the power and impact of Atlantic Black is undeniable and very impressive.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5 — Overall 4.5
Genre: Literature, Mystery, Thriller, Drama, Historical
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About the Author, A S Patric
A. S. Patrić is a bookseller and teacher of creative writing. He is the author of two short story collections, Las Vegas for Vegans and The Rattler & other stories, and a novella called Bruno Kramzer. His debut novel Black Rock White City was published to critical acclaim in 2015 and won the Miles Franklin Award in 2016. His second novel Atlantic Black will be published in November 2017 and a new collection of stories The Butcherbird Stories will be out in 2018. Alec lives in bayside Melbourne with his wife and two daughters.
This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2017.
Other reviews of Atlantic Black
“… Stylistically, Atlantic Black is dense and visceral; its depiction of a toxic mother-daughter relationship is reminiscent of Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk. Patric is able to shift rapidly and absorbingly between the surreal, the sexual and the grotesque…” — Veronica Sullivan for Books+Publishing
“She makes the curious decision to read them one by one across the course of the day, drip feeding her, and the reader, news from the outside world. It’s a rather artificial plot device, though perhaps necessary to drive the novel towards its moving and unexpected finale. ” — Dominic Amerena for The Australian
“Atlantic Black is a book which repays patience. Don’t start reading it expecting to understand everything that’s going on, it will take its own time for all the pieces to fall into place.” — Lisa Hill at ANZLitLovers
“Underpinning Katarina’s private tribulations is the growing shadow of war cast from Europe, and falling across those unbroken stretches of the Atlantic. This is a novel about the violence between violence. This is a book about time, oblivion and inevitability.” — Joshua Pomare for The Lifted Brow
* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.