Georgia Blain’s novel, which is currently shortlisted for the 2017 Stella Prize, is the story of a family told over the course of one day. The family is widowed mother, Hilary, her adult daughters April and Ester, along with Ester’s estranged husband, Lawrence and their two daughters. Hilary is a documentary film maker who is finding that her life as a widow is challenging, and April is the daughter who cannot quite pull her life together. Ester is the busy professional who practises as a psychologist, but is frantically trying to navigate her life, separated from her husband and sharing the parenting of their daughters. Lawrence’s life just does not seem to be working out at all how he might have imagined it doing so.
The many aspects of this family are revealed over the events of the day and are shown at different times from the perspective of each of the main characters. It is from each of their perspectives that the reader learns of their backgrounds and of the family relations between them. It is important to be able to see the events told from the different characters point of view because, just as in real life, the stories of each of the characters evolve as a result of their own particular set of circumstances.
The title of this book is what first attracted me to reading this book and is taken from the French expression, “l’heure entre chien et loup” which refers to the in-between time of twilight when it is hard to see if an animal is a dog or a wolf. This is a wonderful description for this novel because it presents the family’s story as the series of daily incidents and interactions, the times that seem to be in-between major events, as those that tell the real story.
Blain’s writing is beautiful to read, and many readers will recognise the description of the wet humid Sydney day that is described. Although, this is just one family’s story, many readers will also recognise the aspects of family life that are part of us all – that is what makes this such a thoughtful story – most will see a part of themselves in it. I am so glad that the book is now shortlisted of this year’s Stella Prize, as I believe that as many readers as possible should make sure that they do read it.