Tag Archives: Yvette Walker

Review of Australian Fiction special WA volume: issue #5

The new issue of Review of Australian Fiction has just been published, no. 5 in the special volume showcasing WA writers, edited by Laurie Steed. I’ve just read my subscription copy—with a great deal of pleasure, too, as Natasha and Yvette are members of a much-valued writing group I belong to.

Natasha Lester, with two published novels (What Is Left Over, After, winner of the T.A.G. Hungerford Award; and If I Should Lose You) is the established writer of this pairing. Natasha’s third novel, A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, is due out in April 2016. Paired with Natasha is Yvette Walker, whose stunning debut novel Letters to the End of Love won the 2014 WA Premier’s Book Award in the WA Emerging Writer category and was shortlisted for a 2014 NSW Premier’s Award (Glenda Adam’s Award for New Writing).


Natasha’s story, ‘The Maelstrom’, re-creates New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—scenes that resonate with me, as I happened to be there too a few days after Sandy hit. The story begins with a line borrowed from a Joan Didion essay:

She went to New York to stop herself from asking her husband for a divorce. But now she is sitting in a hotel in the East Village in the dark. She cannot turn on the lights because there is no power. She cannot flush the toilet because there is no water. She cannot telephone anyone to tell them she is fine because the phones don’t work. She cannot send an email because every network in the city is down. She is trapped in a speculative kind of fiction with an uncertain ending. Needless to say, this is not what she had in mind when she decided to go.

In Yvette’s story, ‘Brown Paper Parcels’, the protagonist, Kathryn, becomes enmeshed in the world of Forster’s Howards End as she rides the train to Fremantle:

Kathryn stood on the train platform reading Howards End. Margaret Schlegel had intercepted Mrs Wilcox at King’s Cross Station, having decided after all to accept Mrs Wilcox’s invitation to Howards End. Kathryn would have loved to hear the rattle of Pullman carriages, the curse of a surly porter; to watch cigarette smoke curl around the fingers of a young man, ash and lint about his coat. Perhaps all the decades of reading Forster had finally seeped into her blood. The train for Fremantle arrived. Kathryn closed Howards End and stepped into the first carriage.

RAF publishes two stories every two weeks, delivered in mobi (for Kindle) or ePub (for iPhone/iPad, Kobo, Nook, Readmill) format. Individual issues of RAF are $2.99. A subscription for six issues is $12.99.



Filed under Review of Australian Fiction

Shortlisting of Elemental, WA Premier’s Book Awards

elemental_COVERThis week I was thrilled to learn that Elemental has been shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards in the Fiction category. My little red-haired gutting girl is proud to be in the company of these stellar titles:

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (Random House Australia)
Coal Creek by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
Eyrie by Tim Winton (Penguin Group Australia)
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr (Fremantle Press)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Random House Australia)

You can read the full press release here.

The six shortlisted titles are also eligible for the People’s Choice Award. You can vote for your favourite here (WA residents only, and voting closes 29 August).

I was also thrilled to see that the shortlist in a new category, WA Emerging Writers, includes writer friends Dawn Barker for Fractured (you can read a recent 2, 2 and 2 guest post from Dawn here) and Yvette Walker for Letters to the End of Love (my review here).

What an exciting week it’s been!



Filed under Elemental

Book review: Letters to the End of Love, by Yvette Walker

9780702249662The difficulty in reviewing this exquisite debut novel by Yvette Walker lies in not giving away too much. I don’t mean to suggest that Letters to the End of Love is a thriller; on the contrary, it unfolds its stories languorously, dwelling in the quotidian details and rhythms of life. It is this narrative act of unfolding—letter by letter—that gives the novel its cumulative power.

Has there ever been a more perfect title, in its literal aptness and symbolic weight? Love is at the centre of each of three stories braided together through a series of letters. In one, the end of love is likely; in one, inevitable; in one, impossible, even in death. The three sets of letters are otherwise unrelated, other than for the appearance of Paul Klee’s painting Ad Marginem in each story, holding a significance for its pair of lovers, and a concomitant suggestion of the power of art itself.

The Cork letters, dated 1969, tell the story of Dmitri, an exiled Russian painter, and Caithleen, his Irish writer wife. Written, at Caithleen’s request, as daily missives to each other, these letters record the ‘ordinary things, ordinary poetry’ that make up a relationship spanning four decades. The past, in all its tenderness and pain, threads around an uncertain present, as Dmitri and Caithleen reveal intimacies and hauntings that are entwined: ‘I don’t know what comes first, love or sadness, they are perfect twin pearls to me’ (Dmitri). I adore the ‘notorious dog’ who shares itself between them and bridges (or so it seems to me) the silent spaces that the letters also seek to bridge.

The Perth letters, 2011, chart the struggling relationship between two women: stay-at-home bookseller, Grace, and her always-travelling partner Lou, part of the entourage of a musician said to be ‘the new Dylan’. Grace initiates the correspondence as an attempt at ‘something old fashioned, something possibly redundant in a world of speed and light,’ and the resulting letters range across memory and aspiration, the minutiae of (vastly different) everyday lives, the longing both women feel. Lou writes:

Loneliness. Its long white feathers drop and gather around my feet, they blow out of the bar, under the hotel doors and out into the street, into the rain. I want you here and I can’t make it happen.

The Bournemouth letters, 1948, are written by John, a retired English physician, to his lost love, David, a German artist, recalling the time they shared in Vienna before the onset of the Second World War. Prompted by the visit of a man carrying a message from David, these are deeply intimate, elliptical communications to which we bring our knowledge of the horror of those times, reading into their heartbreaking gaps.

I am in love with this writing—its scope, its language—often so profound that it forces you to pause, re-read, savour. Here’s an example (John to David):

You told me painting was working the world out. It was diving into cold, clear mountain water. Crying in the night without dreaming. Ducking a fist in the face. It was boxes of old love letters. Leaflets strewn on the streets like yellow flowers. Suitcases stacked at train stations. These things I whispered to Peter, while the fine muslin cloth that embalms me in the world unravelled itself, like so many used bandages, into an untidy mess at my feet.

The fragmentary nature of letters, their assumptions, their confessions, their allusions, creates an ideal framework in which to tell these intimate stories of ‘love as it is, in all of its strangeness.’ I hope this review has given away no more than a taste of what Yvette Walker’s ambitious, enchanting novel has to offer.

Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker (UQP, 2013)

ISBN 9780702249662

This review counts towards my total for the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge.awwbadge_2013


Filed under Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013