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    DNF - did not finish

    "The Life to Come" is less a novel and more a collection of five short stories that intertwine and overlap, featuring appearances or mentions of characters met elsewhere, all linked by the central character Pippa. “The Fictive Self”, set in Sydney, tells the story of George, an aspiring author. He meets Pippa in university. “Pippa had been in his tutorial on ‘The Fictive Self’: a Pass student whose effortful work George had pitied enough to bump up to a Credit at the last moment.” We find out more about the writing careers of both George and Pippa as the book progresses. “The Ashfield Tamil”, also set in Sydney, centers on Cassie, who is “writing a thesis on Australian expatriate novelists”, and her Sri Lankan born boyfriend Ash. Cassie went to school with Pippa, and they are still in touch. “The Museum of Romantic Life”, set in Paris, introduces us to Celeste, a translator who meets Pippa at an exhibition at the Australian Embassy during the period when Pippa starts writing a new novel set in Paris. In “Pippa Passes”, we finally get the story from Pippa’s point of view. This is as far as I got (67% of the way in) when Book Club met. I really wanted to like this book but, if I hadn’t been reading it for Book Club, I would have given up much earlier. Pippa, who is the linking character, is an acquired taste, a do-gooder who butts into everyone’s business. There are numerous other characters, each with no redeeming features. I didn’t care what happened to any of them, and nothing happens anyway, which makes it hard to continue reading. In addition, the author has the annoying tendency of introducing characters and only naming them later, making the narrative hard to follow. She also tries too hard to be “literary” and, as a result, suffers from the same maladies she makes fun of: “… the meaning of each word was clear and the meaning of sentences baffled. Insignificant yet crucial words like ‘however’ and ‘which’—words whose meaning was surely beyond dispute—had been deployed in ways that made no sense.” “George detected a borrowing: Pippa had come across the word somewhere and been impressed.” That being said, there are some great descriptive passages, with the author having a particular fondness of anthropomorphizing the scenery: “Brick bungalows cowered at the base of the cliff and skulked on the ridge above—it seemed an affront for which they would all be punished.” She also makes astute observations on Australian literature: “After some difficulty, a professor who would admit to having once read an Australian novel was found.”, the media: “… the national broadcaster—a viper’s nest of socialists, tree-huggers and ugly, barren females—had seized on the survey, exhuming one of its bleeding-heart ideologues to moan about funding cuts to education.”, politics: “Education being a trivial portfolio, the minister, a golden boy, had also been entrusted with Immigration.”, race: “He was a Jaffna Tamil, he said. ‘But here no one knows who we are. What to do?’ Cassie was familiar with this kind of thing. Her grandmother had grown up in Vienna, and laments about Australian ignorance circulated readily with the torte.”, character: “People often remarked that Pippa and Cassie were like sisters. That was quite true in the sense that each girl kept track of, rejected and coveted whatever belonged to the other.”, Australians: “Australians are hard-working and very successful. They are suspicious of their success and resent it. They are winners who prefer to see themselves as victims. Their national hero, Ned Kelly, was a violent criminal—they take this as proof of their egalitarianism. They worship money, of course.”, and the passage of time (these last quotes linking back to the book’s title): “What was coming was a life in which his father was a stranger.” “… when Ash thought of Australia it seemed to belong less to his past than to a time to come, luminous and open-ended.” “Australians are ashamed of the past. You have no choice but to look forward.” “Pippa, looking forward, saw a life that had drained away in the service of novels no one wanted to read.” Warnings: coarse language, sexual references. Full blog post (29 July): https://booksdirectonline.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-life-to-come-by-michelle-de-kretser.html
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