A quiet, unassuming, masterpiece.
Adelaide writer Carol Lefevre holds an impressive portfolio including non-fiction, novels, journalism, and personal essay. Her latest work, Murmurations, is both a novella and a collection of short stories. A murmuration is the breath-taking movement of a large flock of birds, usually starlings, together: a phenomenon still not fully understood. In the same way that these birds move inexorably in and around each other, without an obvious leader, so too do Lefevre’s stories.
Each of the eight stories was initially triggered by an Edward Hopper painting, all of which Lefevre lists in her acknowledgements. Hopper was the chronicler of the lonely, the isolated and the absent: all themes which Lefevre plays with throughout this work. For example, Hotel Window becomes Little Buddhas Everywhere, the story of woman clinging desperately to her ex-husband; Morning Sun becomes This Moment in Your Life, a woman’s fading memory of the friend who might have, in a different life, been her lover.
Like Robert Drewe’s The Bodysurfers, each of these stories can be read in isolation. But a much richer experience awaits the reader who treats this as the novella it really is, working through from start to finish. Characters are picked up and moved around between stories; timelines shift in a way that maintains interest without becoming confusing. Yet through all this, a basic narrative arc is maintained, with the story of the slightly mysterious death of an older woman. All the loneliness and absence of Hopper’s work is present, yet thematically this work is also very much about female friendship and love.
Each character is expertly drawn and heart-breakingly believable. Lefevre’s prose is clean and precise, yet subtly poetic. Here are eight engaging stories, which together become one gripping narrative.
Short enough to be read in one sitting, this is a book which is likely to stay with you long, long after you have reluctantly turned the final page.
Murmurations is a triumph.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Distributed by: Spinifex Press
Released: April 2020
RRP: $24.95 paperback, $14.95 eBook
- Visit Carol Lefevre’s website