Updated: Dec 21, 2019
I thought Lucy Treloar's debut historical novel 'Salt Creek' was a masterpiece; I'm very much hoping someone has bought me her latest book, 'Wolfe Island' for Christmas! Is it historical? No. Is it allegorical. Having read a little about it, I imagine, yes. Lucy Treloar is another Aussie author who cares greatly for people and place, and it is little surprise to me, therefore, that 'Wofle Island' touches on her heartfelt concerns about the environment and how we inhabit the world around us.
She is someone who writes so beautifully and so evocatively - that's evident in the awards she won for 'Salt Creek':
Winner for Indie Awards Debut Fiction 2016
Winner for Matt Richell Award for New Writer 2016
Winner for Dobbie Literary Award 2016
Short-listed for The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction 2016, the UK's Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2016 and the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2016.
I'm drawn to the premise of 'Wolfe Island' in which she conceives and easily imaginable and very worrying dystopian future. To summarise:
The main character, Kitty Hawke, is the sole human inhabitant of an island sinking into the wind-lashed Chesapeake Bay. She has resigned herself to a similar fate as her island, keeping herself to herself with no other company than her wolf dog, Girl.
But one night her granddaughter unexpectedly turns up, desperate and begging for sanctuary. For years, Kitty has tried to isolate herself from the concerns and excesses of the outside world, but it would seem that blood cannot be forsaken in times like these. When trouble comes in pursuit of her granddaughter, no one is more surprised than Kitty to find she will fight to save family.
There is a lesson hiding in this, is there not. We cannot isolate ourselves, we cannot turn a blind eye nor become an island: the future will not pass us by, it is ours to share.
It strikes me that Lucy Treloar has brought us another important story, this time about human behaviour, relationships and caring about the world in which we live.
Lauren Chater, another favourite writer of mine, wrote this review on Goodreads: An exquisite book. What struck me most about it on a second reading (was too busy greedily absorbing the beautiful prose the first time round) is the way the terrible things which happened in this near-future world didn’t take place all at once. They happened gradually, insidiously. There was no great catastrophe - no tsunami or terrible flood, none that’s referenced anyway. The changes are incremental - they begin with small cruelties, with citizens turning other, less fortunate people away. With hoarding and lying for personal gain, with small-minded folk withholding power, reluctant to share their bounty. The gradual erosion of kindness in Kitty’s world is reflected in the way the sea eats away at the island she calls home. There’s more to this book of course - there’s a story about mothers and daughters and our responsibilities towards our families and strangers and ourselves. But it’s the images of the houses on Wolfe Island washing into the sea which lingers in my memory and the subtle warning which shines so beautifully through the prose like light on waves; if we erase the last vestiges of kindness in ourselves, what do we as a species ultimately stand for? What’s the point?