Sometimes the title of a book just couldn’t be more perfect. In the mere 120 pages of this novella, Australian author Julia Leigh creates a world of pain and unease in which each character seems to be teetering on the brink of emotional or physical oblivion.
The story begins with a woman and her two children entering the grounds of a French chateau through a doorway in a wall overgrown with vines. We learn that she is coming back to her mother’s home after 12 years living with an abusive husband. Also arriving are the woman’s brother and his wife. The wife cradles their stillborn baby in her arms, a hospital bracelet still on her wrist.
The sense of the tenuousness of each family member’s situation is palpable, and as the story unfolds, we fear for them. The author has created a haunting, and yes, disquieting world, but one where there is also an sense of wonder, and ultimately of hope.