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Towards the end of Days of Innocence and Wonder the narrator says, ‘I suppose we’re all looking for somewhere safe to call home.’ It’s this that drives the protagonist, Till, to flee a home that’s no longer safe, to take her beloved dog, Birdy, and just go. Ultimately, she takes refuge in an abandoned railway station on the outskirts of a remote town in the far north of South Australia. While the station proves amenable to her attempts to turn it into a home, the townspeople are guarded about welcoming a stranger into their close-knit and secretive community.
A sense of alienation permeates the book, intensified by the landscape of harsh and unforgiving emptiness, dirt roads, desolate scrublands, crumbling buildings – a place forgotten by time. Despite her determination to make the town her safe home, Till is tormented by the childhood memory of seeing her best friend snatched away by a child molester. Even many years later, Till is unable to utter the name of her murdered friend and as time passes her fears only intensify. She lives in constant dread, haunted by the shadow of the man who’s coming back for her.
Treloar is a powerful writer, her elegant prose paints the Australian landscape in all its austerity. Heightening the ominous sense of a coming storm is the mysterious narrator, ostensibly an impartial observer, but one who is in fact far from this. Reverberations of trauma are a constant refrain – wretchedness, abuse, dispossession and loss, both past and present. It’s a compelling and unsettling story that leaves you wondering whether Till can ever find the safe abode that’s eluded her for so long.
Reviewed by Anne Green
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Treloar is the author of Wolfe Island (2019) andSalt Creek (2015), which won several awards, in addition to being shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the UK’s Walter Scott Prize.
Previously, Lucy won the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific Region). Lucy’s short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure and Best Australian Stories, and her non-fiction in publications including Foundational Fictions (Wakefield Press).
She lives in inner Melbourne with her family.