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The Life to Come

Nominated for the 2018 Stella Awards, this intriguingly sharp look at the foibles of the human spirit can make for uncomfortable reading, as in her usual incisive manner, de Krester hits the target each and every time, as she presents a witty, but slightly cynical view on life.

Drawing on her personal background of being born in Sri Lanka, emigrating to Australia at the age of 14 years and then studying in both Melbourne and Paris, she introduces the characters and their locations in a flawless manner; people and location fitting together perfectly with their angst, desire and neediness.

George is the first to appear in Section I – The Fictive Self – is he real or is he imagination. Is he based on a real person or is he a collective of a complex vision, a man who can be manipulated, played out or simply a man, a writer,  reflecting back on his life as a child-man. And then we met Pippa, a very different person in entirety –a young woman desperate to be an author, a manipulator, a narcissist, a user of people and circumstance. She touches each section lightly but in doing so binds the whole together.

Then there is Ash, in Section II The Ashfield Tamil which is where Sri Lanka enters the conversation as does Cassie, both lovers of food, both with aspirations to succeed in life, both illustrating the conflicting issues of acceptance, racism and cultural boundaries.

Valerie and Celeste join the cast in Section III at The Museum of Romantic Life which paints a very French affair of the heart, or is it. Once again de Krester’s sharp eye for detail addresses the salient point that does occur in any one sided love affair where there is a married interest invested.

Pippa Passes introduces Section IV with the myriad of additional characters moving cohesively into Pippa’s narrow, narcissistic world. Life, death, betrayal and birth are placed under the spotlight for introspection and once again reflection. Not comfortable reading, the words marching slowly across the pages and twang a resonant sound somewhere deep in that primal place we all have, a place which seldom sees the light of day. Pippa seems to do what we would all like to do at some point in our lives.

Olly Faithful rounds out the novel; a section stepped in a sense of poignancy as Bunty dies, ending a commitment by Christabel and yet at the same time offering new beginnings. But can Christabel overcome her immense sense of loss in order to move on, or will she be forever stuck with her memories, her love of Bunty and the mellow passing of time, as she reflects back over the years and their precious time together.

Each piece is separate and yet joined, with the characters moving between the chapters, moving into and out of the lives of others, as strangers so often do in reality.

Not a comfortable read, but one well worth the effort. It is easily understandable that A Life To Come has made it onto the short list for the 2018 Stella Awards, as the use of language is spare, beautiful, descriptive and evocative.

Author Michelle de Kretser
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760296568
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released October 2017