Oct 13, 2012

Book Review–The Rest is Weight by Jennifer Mills

the-rest-is-weightThe Rest is Weight is a short story collection by award winning, poet and novelist, Jennifer Mills. 

I first came across Mill’s work at a reading in Alice Springs. Mills had just launched The Diamond Anchor and was the guest at a local poetry night.  It was there that I picked up a copy of Treading Earth, a chap book of her poetry.  This book contains one of my favourite poems to date, Mowing

Mills displays a great talent for succinctly capturing; people, place and emotion. I had appreciated it in her poetry and in Gone.  It was most evident to me, however in this collection.

The stories are diverse in tone, character and place.  With any collection of short stories I often find reading them in one sitting quite difficult.  You’d think it would be easier but I do often enjoy the feeling of being immersed in a novel and that doesn’t happen with short stories generally for obvious reasons.  Not so with The Rest is Weight, I read it in 2 days, without interruption from other reading work.  Mills continually captured my attention and compelled me to read.

This is an achievement because when I say the work is diverse I mean it.  The first story Look Down with Me is a snapshot of Australia’s dark history of race relations and it pulls no punches.  It would sit equally well in a horror anthology and has elements that I find amongst the best purveyors of the weird and dark in fantasy circles.

Indeed their are a number of pieces that play in that borderland between reality and fantasy, pieces that stop short of dipping into the fantastical but leave you second guessing yourself, like movement caught in peripheral vision. Reason and Demolition are two such examples.  The former is about a ministerial assistant who sees things on the return from visiting an aboriginal community, the later about the possibility of a Fox Spirit living in an ancient townhouse marked for demolition by the Chinese Government.

Then there are pieces that are slices of Australian life, relationships brought to life.  The Capital of Missing Persons, Hello Satan and The Opposite of Peace.

Mills facility for voicing the perspective of the untouchables of Australian society, the mentally ill, the homeless and the imprisoned is evident with The Shipping Views, Plain Indians and Crow Season.

I don’t generally read Australian literature, because none of it captures Australia for me.  Not so with Mills, her Australia is my Australia - authentic and despite her being from the East Coast originally, I perceive a view from the centre looking out.

There’s something for every reader in this book, Mills holds the diverse content together with refined prose and precise, evocative imagery.

awwc2012_thumb[1]This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.

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