The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser [7/10]

The Life to Come won this year’s prestigious Miles Franklin Award and I can see why, for it’s a formidable literary work. This is author Michelle de Kretser’s second Miles Franklin and all six of her novels have gained critical acclaim as well as growing popularity. The Life to Come is her opus, a Tolstoyian cavalcade of five intermeshed characters: sharp-penned author George in Sydney; Sri Lankan Ash with Cassie; translator Celeste in Paris; my favorite character, endlessly ambitious wannabe writer Pippa, shallow yet somehow rapier eyed; and sluggish Sri Lankan spinster Christabel at home and then in Sydney. They know love, they experience aloneness, they interpret each other. The supporting cast of characters number in the dozens and the contemporary settings spring to life on the pages. de Kretser writes stunningly accomplished, dense yet light prose, at its best when savagely funny or acutely emotional. I’ve read most of her oeuvre and have oftentimes found the plots eventful but somehow sapped of drama, and a couple of the book’s sections threatened to sag under the weight of not much, but the final two plot arcs are highly satisfying. An antidote to my more routine reading fare, The Life to Come is a rich work of art.

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