It’s been a while since I read The Dry, Jane Harper’s first Aaron Falk novel. I feel like he is a kinder, gentler Falk in this novel – although my memory could be faulty, and his circumstances are certainly a lot less.. button-pushy this time round.
In the past, I have struggled with cultural cringe when reading Australian fiction. Turns out, I just wasn’t reading GOOD Australian fiction – Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and a few others are certainly overcoming The Cringe with really compelling stories capturing rural Australia.
Warning – this review contains spoilers. Please don’t continue if you want to read it unspoiled – the non-spoiler thumbnail is “I continue to buy Jane Harper novels the day they’re released, because she continues to earn my faith.”
Falk is visiting South Australia for his Godson’s christening, a year after the disappearance of Kim Gillespie. Kim disappeared from a local wine festival, leaving her baby abandoned in her pram. Though officially ruled a suicide, her death has left lingering questions with both her family and the police.
This feels like the opposite of a book I negatively reviewed earlier; all the characters are clearly and compassionately drawn, and the threads of the story are wound together in a way that makes the ending both inevitable and also shocking.
Of course it was the husband – of COURSE! – but I felt like it was handled in a non-cliched way. He wasn’t dragging her out of the room or denigrating her in front of friends and family. He was just quietly and insidiously undermining her, mentally, financially and finally physically. It was heartbreaking, honestly. We see way too much DV and violence against women in Australia, and it is utterly horrifying every time. Like every country, we need to get better at listening to women, believing victims, and putting a structure in place that can get women to safety and keep them that way.