Heather Rose’ Bruny is an intelligent and timely literary, political thriller. Read our full review of this highly thought-provoking novel from a very talented author.
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How far would your government go?
A right-wing US president has withdrawn America from the Middle East and the UN. Daesh has a thoroughfare to the sea and China is Australia’s newest ally. When a bomb goes off in remote Tasmania, Astrid Coleman agrees to return home to help her brother before an upcoming election. But this is no simple task. Her brother and sister are on either side of politics, the community is full of conspiracy theories, and her father is quoting Shakespeare. Only on Bruny does the world seem sane.
Until Astrid discovers how far the government is willing to go.
Bruny is a searing, subversive, brilliant novel about family, love, loyalty and the new world order.
(Allen & Unwin, October 2019)
I was mesmerised by Heather Rose’ artful prose in The Museum of Modern Love, and so was very keen to see how she’d apply that to the political thriller genre. And one that centred around a bridge. Cutting right to the chase… I was not disappointed on that score.
And there was the bridge close up, winged, injured, a giant beast fallen on one knee.
The Museum of Modern Love delivered Rose a platform and she has chosen to use it to raise greater awareness about matters of great importance to her and many others. Bruny is not just about politics, it is a very political book. But do not let that turn you off.
A story of politics
Yes, there is an environmental, pro-arts and feminist bent. In respect to the current geopolitical landscape — let’s just say the issues explored in Bruny are highly topical. And I include in those highly topical issues, xenophobia.
Maggie Lennox said, “I do not, personally, feel that we have anything to fear from the Chinese. I believe that China is simply doing what any powerful nation does. What the US has done, and the British before that. They are investing in their allies. I know that’s new and hard to accept for some people, that we have become an ally of China, but we live in a global world.”
In fact, a large part of what makes Bruny such a page-turner is how eerily similar the very near future fictional setting is to the current state of our world. But I was relieved to note, on careful reading, that in this fiction no one political party, country, religion or even gender is placed on a pedestal. All have flaws, and these ultimately human failings are openly observed and even acknowledged by the characters.
It isn’t religion that’s the opiate of the masses in the twenty-first century. It’s fear. Fear is the new opioid. It makes us dull, paranoid, selfish and jittery, and we’re fed it on the front of every newspaper, all day long on radio and TV and online news. Whether you’ve got ten million dollars or ten cents, these days fear drives everything.
Artful character development
While I felt there were moments Rose stretched the ‘reality-fantasy’ fabric, it was her mastery with words and slow-burn character development that had me hooked. In fact, simmer is perhaps a better descriptor. The mystery, intrigue and romance is on low heat much of the novel, but the end results are worth the wait.
I was engaged and entertained by the dry first-person narrative of Rose’ mature female lead Astrid Coleman, and the minefield that is Coleman family Sunday lunch conversation.
He’s about as useful as eyebrows on a dolphin in this situation.
She’s staunchly independent, world-weary and caustic, but a keen observer of human behaviour.
When all is said and done, and I’m dust on the breeze, I wanted to leave something good behind. You see, I’m a hypocrite. I like altruism in me but not in anybody else.
Altruism is like vitamin C, that other voice in my head said. It staves off the scurvy but it won’t stop the ship from sinking.
And her Shakespeare quoting father… impossible not to adore.
Bruny is an intelligent and timely literary, political thriller — another highly thought-provoking read from the very talented Heather Rose.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
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About the Author, Heather Rose
Heather Rose is the Australian author of eight novels.
Her seventh novel The Museum of Modern Love won the 2017 Stella Prize. It also won the 2017 Christina Stead Prize and the 2017 Margaret Scott Prize. It has been published internationally and translated into numerous languages. Both The Museum of Modern Love and The Butterfly Man were longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. The Butterfly Man won the Davitt Award in 2006, and in 2007 The River Wife won the international Varuna Eleanor Dark Fellowship. Heather writes with Danielle Wood under the pen-name Angelica Banks and their Tuesday McGillycuddy children’s series has twice been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards for best children’s fantasy. Angelica Banks is also published internationally. Heather lives by the sea in Tasmania.
* Receiving a copy of Bruny for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.Updated