Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Salvage by Jason Nahrung

Salvage is a novella by Jason Nahrung, put out by Twelfth Planet Press, and the first longer work of his I've read (I think I've read a short story before, just don't ask me which one).

Salvage is set on an island near Brisbane, where a couple take their first holiday after a miscarriage. Melanie is the main character and the story primarily follows her continuing journey in coming to terms with the miscarriage, the coldness that has crept into their marriage since, and her husband, Richard's, distraction with work.

While on the island, she meets Helena, a somewhat mysterious waif, with a medical condition that prevents her from fully enjoying their surroundings. She is also holidaying there with her husband. The two women strike up a friendship, but it turns out to be not entirely what Melanie expected.

I liked Melanie as a character but I'm not sure I'd want to be friends with any of the other characters in real life. Richard, while not positioned as an antagonistic character per se, was central to some of Melanie's issues. I'm not sure that I would have put up with him as much as Melanie did.

I found Salvage to be quite dark. I'm inclined to classify it as the horror version of magical realism. The fantastical elements didn't come to the fore until near the end and would have surprised me if I hadn't been expecting them (since Twelfth Planet Press do primarily publish speculative fiction). The publisher is categorising it as "Australian Gothic" which I think is fairly apt. As far as the horror element goes, there was a bit of ickiness and a bit of violence, but nothing which is likely to give me (most people?) nightmares.

I recommend Salvage to people after a quick, dark read. (It's definitely not a cheery story.) I think people who are into contemporary/mainstream/whatever-you-want-to-call-it books would also enjoy Salvage as, like I said, the fantastical elements are relatively minor. I'll certainly be on the look out for more books/stories from Jason Nahrung.

4 / 5 stars

Published: June 2012, Twelfth Planet Press
Format read: Paperback
Source: Publisher giveaway due to minor printing error (which it took me a while to locate)

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