Books & Literature

Book Review: The Broken Wave, by Matthew Ryan Davies

LITERARY FICTION: In the small seaside town of Queenscliff, two boys from opposite sides of the world forge a friendship over a summer of sun, adventure and brotherhood. Until a catastrophic event shatters their idyllic childhoods.

A novel which satisfies both as literary fiction, and as great storytelling.

Feature image credit: Pan Macmillan Australia

Drew is in his 40s, a middlingly successful author, happily married and child-free, and living in Minneapolis. Back in the early ‘90s, he moved with his family to the tiny Victorian town of Queenscliff. Here, while his stepfather does some sort of work in the military sector, and his mother is pregnant, Drew makes friends with local boy, Tom. After an unspeakable tragedy, the family only end up staying in Australia for six months, but Drew carries his friendship with Tom into his adulthood.

When Tom dies in a boating accident, Drew decides to fly back to Queenscliff to attend the funeral, despite not having had much contact with him over the preceding few years. What has really drawn him back? What secret held these two men together? And what really happened in that little house on Mercer Street all those years ago?

The Broken Wave is a work of unexpected depth, using the central mystery as a framework for an exploration of friendship, family, love, and the largely still misunderstood scourge of post-natal depression and psychosis. Ryan Davies knows how to weave a tale, giving the reader satisfying slow-burning suspense. His characters are authentic and multi-dimensional, and his portrait of childhood hits just the right note, without a trace of mawkish sentimentality, yet still gently nostalgic. In particular, the developing relationship between Drew and Tom’s teenage son, Adam, draws us in, and we share in Drew’s growing equivocation around the idea of having children of his own.

Anyone who has been to the beautiful town of Queenscliff, or any older Australian coastal town, will recognise the places and people that populate this novel. And Ryan Davies has written humorously but realistically about Australia as seen through the eyes of a young American.

The Broken Wave is Ryan Davies’s second adult novel, and worthy of acclamation. Tightly written, warm, suspenseful, humorous, and occasionally horrifying, it is a stupendous addition to the canon of contemporary Australian literary fiction.

And just a damn good read!

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Released: November 2023
RRP: $34.99

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