Nest by Inga Simpson
Paperback, 296 pagesPublished July 29th 2014 by Hachette (first published July 1st 2014)
I liked this book a lot. It has a gentle lyrical rhythm, and whilst it deals with the pain of loss it isn’t bleak or maudlin at all. Jen has come back to the town she where she grew up; the town where, when she was only twelve, her father and her best friend Michael disappear on the same day. She and her mother then have to live in a small country town, with the inevitable speculation – are the two disappearances linked? Was her father involved in harming a child? She has not been been able to find out what became of either of them, and she has tried to heal her broken heart without success. Thing is, her heart is broken again by a man – that’s why she comes back, to retreat, to plant herself in familiar ground, to mend. Life goes on – and this is drawn in exquisite detail in Jen’s observations of the great fecund roil of life in her garden, especially the life of birds. Then, another child goes missing. Whilst the mystery plays out, Jen takes solace in nature, in the birds on her property, her retreat. She is an artist, and the connections between art and life are beautifully woven into the story. As is the endless cycle of life – Jen is teaching Henry to paint, a boy of the age she was when her world fell apart. Nature is life is art. It’s just lovely.
I liked very much the dominant place in the novel given to setting; place itself is central, and it is also a metaphor for a sense of belonging, or not. It’s very well done. Inga Simpson’s love of nature and art infuses every page of this novel, and it is quite transporting. I felt the reality of the hinterland setting, the connection between landscape, animals, art and person through passages like this:
“Jen turned off the kitchen tap and stood still. There was a swamp wallaby at the bottom of the garden, ears twitching. He looked towards the house from behind his dark robbers mask. She memorised his stance, the length of his limbs. The ginger bases of his ears. She stepped out onto the deck, keeping behind a post. He sensed her, stood a little more alert.
She took another step, peering out from behind the post. He took off, downhill, each springy hop loud on the dry leaves. She refilled her glass with cold water from the fridge and retreated to her studio, beneath the shifting air of the fan.”
I’m going to read her other novel on the strength of this one.
Oh, and the mystery does get solved. 🙂