Posts Tagged ‘Michael Sala’

Martin Shaw of Readings Monthly described this novel as ‘gutsy, moving, beautifully wrought and utterly compelling’.  In this memoir-as-fiction, first novelist Michael Sala recalls his early life in Holland and his life in Australia after his family immigrated here in the 1980s. In compelling detail, he describes his dysfunctional family: the fragile mother he loves, her penchant for moving house and for picking the wrong men; his glamorous, estranged Greek father, his older brother Con and his relationship with his cruel stepfather Dirk. The family has secrets, things some of the older members of the family did during WWII in Holland to survive.

The first two-thirds of the book are consistent in style, tense and point of view. However, in the last third, which depicts the family’s life in Newcastle, a looser technique prevails. I found myself wishing it had been written in the same consistent style as the first two-thirds. But as the author had to jump many years to when he, himself, is a father, and his mother and estranged father are old, perhaps this did not prove possible.

Essentially, Sala is a painter with words rather than a storyteller. As each scene unfolds, it’s like watching a master painter apply brush stroke after brush stroke to a canvas until the whole comes together.  The sense of cohesion the reader is left with, despite the apparent randomness of the third part of the book (the timeline is disjointed, there are flashbacks and changes of tense and point of view), is due to Sala’s deeply felt emotion and the high level of technique he employs in describing these emotions and the interactions between family members.

Sala’s prose is impeccable. I note that Chapter 9 appeared previously under the title ‘The Men Outside My Room’ in The Best Australian Stories 2011 and Chapter 10 appeared under the title ‘Like My Father, My Brother’ in the anthology Brothers and Sisters. This is no surprise: Sala has a wonderful ability to write between the lines and is a master of the fine detail so beloved by the Australian literary establishment. At present, he lacks the polish of a Thomas Shapcott and the strong storyline structure we have come to expect from Tim Winton. But that will come.

An interesting read, though perhaps not traditional enough in form for some. I found myself looking forward to his next book – one that has a simple timeline and is, perhaps a little less ‘literary’.

Make no mistake. Sala is here to stay.

Readers can purchase a copy of The Last Thread from almost all independent Australian bookstores, as well as A&R and Dymocks etc. The e book is available from Booki.sh and Kobo.

Danielle de Valera


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