Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany won the 2019 Queensland Fiction Book Award, and was shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Award, 2020 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and 2020 Voss Literary Prize.
Exploded View is not a plot driven novel, but a dynamic piece of writing. The novel investigates the psychological space of a child familiar with danger. Readers will find the novel disturbing as they learn this is a story of a dysfunctional family narrated by a damaged adolescent girl with the stench of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.
This however is not a typical contemporary novel. The story is charged with the power of things that aren’t said or expressed. The writing is concise and pungent.
The novel is set in the 1970’s in Western Australia. The unnamed narrator is a teenage girl living with her mother, brother and her car mechanic stepfather (knows as Father Man). The title Exploded View can be interpreted as a metaphor as it draws out the multiple implications of the idea that a nuclear family can be understood as a kind of machine, consisting of separate but interlocking parts, how they function as a single entity and what might cause such a finely attuned piece of machinery to break down.
The unnamed narrator sabotages her stepfathers’ mechanic business with the Holden workshop manual as some measure of control. The middle part of the book details the long road trip with her family. The descriptions of the trip focus on the small details in nature, roads and relationships. “A car is the ideal container for a family. You can always be going to a better place and it keeps everyone stamped down neatly in their seats”.
The author was nervous about the book’s reception. “I don’t want to be sensationalist or gratuitous. The small acts in which the dignity of a child is not respected can be tremendously traumatic. They can affect people throughout their whole lives”. As with the book’s narrator, the author has also experienced some abuse in her background and the group discussion about the book thought she was quite brave to write about this. The author said a lot of the book is drawn from experience and it is the most autobiographical book she has done.
The group generally thought the book was extremely well written, terrifying and evocative with an underlying menace. Some said it was very sad and too much menace. A difficult subject for some, a couple of readers found the language obscure and superfluous detail, brutal and disturbing and the road trip a tedious read. Some found a strong message from the damaged narrator trying to find control.
Ratings: Nicola 4, Margie 4, Pauline 4, Di 4, Dianne 35, Lynda 3.5, Janet 3.5, Sandy 3, Jenny 3 and Viv 2.
Our next meeting will be at Preece House on 8/03/21 at 6:30PM to discuss Apeirogon by Colum McCann. Hope to see you all there and happy reading!
We are a group that gets together once a month to discuss good books. Each of us gets to choose a book on a rotational basis, preferably one outside our personal comfort zone – we try to keep the trash to ourselves. After the discussion, we comment on other books we read that month. Most of the time we remain friends after the meeting.
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