This intelligent, warm-hearted, well-written novel follows the lives of two Adelaide paramedics over 20 years as they learn, struggle, age, and get to know each other as colleagues and as a working team. One thing that Joel and Tash do not do, however, is become disillusioned with their work, and although it grinds them down they never have a moment’s doubt about the worth of what they do. There are many tales here from the land of emergency, some mundane, some almost unbearable. Much of the latter is very strong stuff and readers are advised to brace themselves. There is some excellent character development as we watch Joel and Tash head into middle age, and Mead also does a superb job of writing about Adelaide, mapping the streets and traffic from a paramedic’s point of view and telling tales that could happen in any city in the world.
Return to Dust
UWA Publishing, $29.99
Amber is in a state of grief after her brother’s death when she returns to her childhood home in Alice Springs, from where she makes a three-day trip to a remote Aboriginal community where she reconnects not only with her tenuous forays into Aboriginal languages but also with some different views of the world, most notably that of time. This virtually plotless novel is given shape by the physical journeys through the landscape, most notably an almost surreal night-time drive through the Central Australian landscape. But as is pointed out, grief is not a linear process, and Amber’s emotional state is matched by the mood of her surroundings. Dani Powell has lived in Alice Springs for decades and it shows in this arresting, poetic account not only of Central Australia’s landscape but also of its modes of being in the world.
The Paris Secret
Packaged and in parts written as a standard wartime romance, this novel goes deeper than that. While you might want to skip over the love-and-sex scenes, there is some fascinating material on other subjects. One is the participation of women in the Second World War, specifically in the Air Force but by extension more generally, and another is the Parisian world of high fashion in the years immediately after the war. There’s also a carefully complex plot covering four generations of women and held together by a gorgeous and mysterious blue dress, tucked into a cupboard in a cottage on the wild Cornish coast. Holding all of this together is the young and appropriately named Skye Penrose, a stubborn and fearless free spirit who can withstand even the most childishly sexist nonsense to which the military subjects her.