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The Hope Fault, by Tracy Farr.

April 25, 2019

The Hope Fault
The Hope Fault, by Tracy Farr.  London: Freemantle Press, 2017.

4 stars

A skillfully written novel of an extended family, broken and reassembled, forced to face their conflicts and pain in a weekend spent together packing up their old house on the southwestern coast of Australia.

Tracy Farr was born in Melbourne, grew up in Perth, and for 20 years has lived in New Zealand.   She has degrees in both Science and Arts from the University of Western Australia.  She has published a variety of award-winning short stories, a previous novel, and held residences and fellowships in both Australia and New Zealand.

The Hope Fault is set in the far southwestern corner of Australia, one hundred and fifty miles south of Perth. The story takes place in a house used as a vacation home for a group of loosely related individuals with unresolved tensions and secrets.  The main character is Iris, a motherly soul still trying to keep things together.  Also present are her ex-husband, his new wife, and their baby. Additional guests include Iris’s best friend, who is her ex-husband’s sister, and their confused and struggling adolescents.  In addition, a fine, long section about Iris’s mother is inserted in the story of the seaside house.

There is much to like about this novel. The writing is sharp and clear; characters are interesting, plot nicely interwoven.  Images of hope and fault lines unify and divide the book.  Yet for me, the novel was depressingly static. The characters are caught in their own destructive patterns, with almost no possibilities for change or resolution.  I prefer novels in which I can sense psychological movement, if not physical change.  The ending deliberately refuses to resolve issues raised.  Or perhaps, Farr is making just that point.  Maybe she means to describe how firmly and tragically we all let ourselves by caught in the past.

Do read this book.  If you think you can handle its depressive mood.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2019 4:47 pm

    I liked the portrait of Rosa in aged care, reminding us that there are often really interesting people disabled by frailty but still having a rich inner life.

  2. robinandian2013 permalink
    April 26, 2019 12:31 am

    I read Tracy Farr’s first novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, and was very impressed so of course I later tried The Hope Fault – and was less impressed, partly because the theme of troubled families has been covered by so many writers. I hope you’ll try Lena Gaunt.

  3. April 27, 2019 11:30 am

    Yes. Like Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger.

  4. April 28, 2019 12:26 pm

    I can handle depressive novels but like you would want to feel that something is progressing in the narrative….

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