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Book DetailsISBN: 9781743311004
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Book Review: Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser - Reviewed by CloggieA (21 Oct 2012)
Questions of Travel is the fourth novel by Sri Lanka- born author, Michelle de Kretser. This novel follows, from childhood, events in the lives of two people: in Sydney, Laura Fraser, inspired by her Great-aunt Hester’s travel stories, uses a bequest from Hester to travel the world, eventually making a career in travel guide publishing; in Sri Lanka, Ravi Mendis’s life is turned upside down by devastating events, causing him to flee for his life. Ultimately, their paths cross, although this does not happen until almost three quarters of the way through the book. de Krester is skilled at conveying atmosphere and mood: she captures the feel of Sydney summer beautifully and her intimate knowledge of Sri Lanka is apparent. de Kretser slowly builds her story around a set of complex characters: I really wanted happiness for these two, but they seemed determined to thwart their own contentment at every turn. de Kretster’s novel will have the reader thinking about travel in its many different forms: travel for pleasure, for work, as migration, and in flight from persecution or war. At one point, Ravi realises that “Immigration was the triumph of geography over history.” de Kretser juxtaposes the superficiality of tourism with the life of locals in those destinations: the global rich in the context of the local poor. There is some beautiful prose: “Antennas were suspended above tiles – or were they the bones of fish? Clouds parted, and a great rib of light reached into a valley like an illustration from a Bible story.” And “Ferries passed, lit up like cakes. The bridge went on holding the two halves of the city apart.” The last paragraph is a completely unexpected twist. Powerful and thought-provoking.
Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which was widely praised by writers such as AS Byatt, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd and won a swag of awards, including: the 2008 NSW Premier's Book of the Year Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal. The Lost Dog was also shortlisted for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the Western Australian Premier's Australia-Asia Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Asia-Pacific Region) and Orange Prize's Shadow Youth Panel. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction.
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