Top positive review
The world is going to hell in a hand basket but there’s hope
Reviewed in Australia on 3 November 2019
It took a while for novelists to start writing books about climate change but now we have cli-fi, and this is one. It’s also about everything else: the degrading of democracy, the rising power of China, decaying standards of living, the commercialisation of everything, cynical politicians who suffer from short-termism and so on. Heather Rose has her fingers on a lot of pulses.
Astrid Coleman lives in New York. She works in conflict resolution around the globe for the UN and has seen some pretty awful things. She’s called home to Tasmania where her twin brother John is Premier and older half sister Maxine heads the Labor opposition. An interesting premise. Her job is to resolve conflict between the many groups for and against a massive bridge being built from Bruny Island to the mainland with a price tag of 2 billion, much of which is coming from China. In a state with falling standards of education and a health system cobbled together with duct tape, the wisdom of this project is contested. Two billion could lift every Tasmanian out of poverty. Because Bruny is famous as a lightly populated, pristine paradise where people grow clean green produce in boutique establishments it seems odd to build a six lane, award-winning bridge when the island can barely cope with the visitors who come by ferry. Sure enough, Astrid uncovers a dastardly plot which might seem a little far-fetched, but their again, not, given China’s increasingly assertive stance on a lot of issues. And that’s nearly all I’ll say by way of a spoiler.
This is a very timely book because it nails the situation the world finds itself in on many fronts and it isn’t much of a stretch at all to imagine the scenario Rose presents. Admittedly, some of the conversations between characters are set pieces to explicate a position but all in all the characters are vivid and the plot entirely plausible, starting with a bit of a bomb that sets back the build but has the welcome (to some) effects of China sending more steel and making it easier to import Chinese workers to meet the deadline, which is the day before the next state election. Mixed in with this are the health situations of Coleman Pere and Mere. Angus, (an old Labor politician) can now only talk in apt Shakespearean quotes and his acerbic, unmaternal wife has cancer. Because Astrid is such an astute, knowledgeable person her narration is a pleasure. An intelligent 50 something woman used to being in a position of power? Bring it on. She’s highly moral too, and writes of her actions “I was ashamed of not being ashamed.” A must-read for all our pollies.