Author: Belinda Castles
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 23rd May 2018
Synopsis:With sea-salt authenticity, Belinda Castles sets the Bright family in the sprawling paradise of Bilgola Beach. But darkness is found both in the iconic setting as well as in the disturbing behaviour of one of the family.
As he tilted the blinds she saw her mother in her tennis whites, standing at the kitchen bench, staring out into the dark bushland that bordered their houses. That was what Tricia did these days, looked into the bush as though it would attack one of them.
On a sweltering day in a cliff-top beach shack, Jack and Lou Bright grow suspicious about the behaviour of their charismatic, unpredictable father, Charlie. A girl they know has disappeared, and as the day unfolds, Jack’s eruptions of panic, Lou’s sultry rebellions and their little sister Phoebe’s attention-seeking push the family towards revelation.
Twenty years later, the Bright children have remained close to the cliff edges, russet sand and moody ocean of their childhood. Behind the beautiful surfaces of their daily lives lies the difficult landscape of their past, always threatening to break through. And then, one night in late summer, they return to the house on the cliff…
Gripping and evocative, Bluebottle is a story of a family bound by an inescapable past, from the award-winning author of The River Baptists and Hannah and Emil.
The Bright family are spending Christmas in an old cliff-top beach shack, listening to their father’s plans for the place, but his erratic and suspicious behaviour confuses the family, and forces Lou to become sultry and rebel as her little sister, Phoebe does what she can to grab everyone’s attention, and Jack erupts in panic. At the same time, there is the mystery of Monica, a girl that Lou and Jack know from school who has disappeared. Only her backpack has been found, and Lou wonders if her father knows more than he is letting on.
The novel goes between Christmas and Boxing Day 1994 – and twenty years later, where the mystery of Monica’s disappearance hasn’t been solved, and where Lou, Jack and Phoebe are all grappling with their own lives: Jack’s broken marriage and separation from his daughter, Phoebe’s photography and Lou – a successful real estate agent with a family. When the house they spent that fateful summer in comes back on the market, they reunite there, and slowly, over the days that lead up to that meeting and that follow, what happened there is revealed slowly, and family secrets come out that bring them closer together,
The story of the Bright children, and the revelations of what happened to their father and school mate drive this novel. The secrets of their past slowly come out, though at times not wholly obvious, and reveal three children whose lives were touched by tragedy and who have lived with the shadows of what happened that summer – and yet, in their own ways, they have coped and overcome it, and forged their own identities.
Lou, Jack and Phoebe are close, and it was delightful to see the relationships of family, siblings and parent and child at the forefront of this novel – the good and the bad, and everything in between. The importance of these relationships that the Bright children experienced in their youth influenced them as adults, and they were shown as real, and complex characters.
An intriguing read, where the answers are not always obvious, and keeps you guessing until the last page, a kind of family orientated mystery that shows life isn’t always perfect.