Go to Homepage   Georgia Blain: Candelo

 

Penguin Books (Australian Trade Paperback),
ISBN 0140272062
This finely crafted novel about the disruptive effect of a foster child on the family that shelters him provides a fine showcase for young author Georgia Blain's growing talent.  

Foster child Mitchell Jenkins precipitates a tragedy on a family holiday to Candelo, a small country town in New South Wales. Mitchell's actions affect each member of his foster family in different ways, but the results haunt all of them until Mitchell's death years later. 

Ursula, the novel's narrator, a struggling actress involved in messy relationships, wants to help her brother Simon, the most afflicted. Although a talented artist, Simon lives an unhappy, solitary life, driving a bus and allowing his mother and her girlfriend to treat him like a child. 

But Ursula finds it impossible to help Simon until she can overcome the pain she suffered on that fateful vacation. And her window of opportunity is shrinking. If Ursula can't reconcile her family before her mother's death, the emotional wounds they suffered may never heal. 

Stylish but sparing, the story unwinds like a Greek tragedy as Ursula slowly reveals what happened at Candelo. Mitchell's reckless attractiveness cast a spell over the entire family. Ursula fell in love with him; Simon did whatever Mitchell said; and their feminist mother, preoccupied with her writing career, ignored all the signs of impending disaster. Everyone's conflicting needs place the family on a collision course with itself, and though you know catastrophe is inevitable, you can't look away. 

A quintessentially Australian novel reminiscent of the bleak, sad stories of the great Henry Lawson, Candelo often proves harrowing to read. A ray of hope, however, brightens the novel's end, casting a forgiving glow on characters and readers alike. 

Lisa-Anne Sanderson

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