This first novel is no timid creature. Rather, Chloe Hooper has embraced big themes - sex, death, childhood, history - and has done so with a powerful individual style. The narrator, Kate, is a young teacher in a small Tasmanian town who is having an affair with the father of one of her students. Her lover is married to the writer of a successful true crime book about a murder in the area, tellingly involving a married couple and the husband's lover. This intertwining of sex and death is central to the novel. Just as the prose is suffused with sexuality, death pervades Kate's environment - the roads around the town are littered with roadkill; war memorials in country towns recall the fallen; her father's school was built on a graveyard. And throughout the book there is the palimpsest of violent episodes in Tasmania's history, particularly the genocide of the Aboriginal population. Individual histories are thus shadowed by other people's histories and by broader social history. With so much going on beneath the surface, the `undertow' in the music Kate and Thomas listen to on their way to a hotel room serves as a metaphor for the novel itself. Hooper has brilliantly created a world in which the ground shifts constantly underneath the narrator's, and the reader's, feet. Highly literary, and filled with ideas, this book justifies the `Next Big Thing' hype. Lorien Kaye is editor of AB&P. C. 2002 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors
The Wall Street Journal Ironic, moving, full of keen perceptions and striking sentences...a tour de force. The New Yorker A witty and unsettling meditation on innocence and experience. The Cleveland Plain Dealer A stunning, literate debut that combines a taut story and a unique structure...It is Hooper's prowess and her keen grasp of human psychology that make the book so rewarding. Vince Passaro O The Oprah Magazine A brilliant, seductive, and unnerving first novel of sexual betrayal and murder...Hooper's novel is so tightly woven, so sophisticated, so full of sharp psychological truth and complex emotional and sexual life that you really have trouble believing it could be anyone's first book. Jennifer Egan The New York Times Book Review A striking, ambitious first novel...Hooper forces open her material so that it resonates beyond itself, and she does this with...curiosity and instinctive grace.