What I liked about this story was that the solving of the mystery, while central to the characters’ behaviour, ultimately plays second fiddle to the interactions between the characters themselves. This could be the reason why I’m not all that fond of plot driven mystery stories – there’s enough of that on T.V. for me to feel sated with murder and mayhem without reading about it, too.
There was a moment early in the book where I almost abandoned it – much like driving for hours to a campsite to arrive late in the afternoon in a place full of people you’re not too sure about. Well, metaphorically I parked the car, put up the tent and continued to read. I’m glad I persevered because I came to know these people (characters) and appreciate their perspectives, even if in the end I could not like them.
The language and style, like the landscape in which the story takes place, is deceptively simple, and this makes the story easy to read. On the surface the words and the story carried me from one plot point to the next, but underneath, like the undertows and currents of the ocean, I was caught in the depths of what can’t be seen, in what is not said – the hints and eddies of life itself. Fantastic.
Bay of Fires brought to a head a thought that I’ve been pondering for a while. Is there something about the literature of your own region or country that resonates more than does the literature from elsewhere?
Poppy Gee’s evocation of the rather remote landscape of the Bay of Fires region of Tasmania speaks to me profoundly, something that I’ve rarely experienced in stories from places I’ve never been. Richard Flanagan, Peter Carey, Nevil Shute and even Tansy Rayner Roberts’ fun paranormal take on Hobart also have this effect. Most of the books I’ve read have been either British or American and the only author I can think of (off the top of my head) who came close to this for me was Hemingway.
For the duration of Bay of Fires I was living there with all my senses – not just watching the story happen to other people – walking the beaches, smelling the surf and the tip, stomping through the thick grass wary of snakes, paddling the lagoon, smelling the bushfire and breathing in the heat. Was this simply because I’ve done all those things? Been to places like those? Because I’m Australian? Can Jane Austen be read with anything more than an intellectual appreciation by someone who’s never been to England? I don’t know.
So, what do you think? Does regionalism have any effect on your appreciation of the books you read?