After the death of her mother, Jen buys a small house in the rainforest with her inheritance and retires, living off the income of the occasional art class and selling her own artwork.
But first Jen must come to terms with the unresolved disappearance of her childhood friend many years ago. Especially as a similar disappearance occurs just as she moves back to the area where she grew up.
From beginning to end, the narrative quietly traces Jen’s retreat from the civilised world into nature itself, into the nest.
What I thought of Nest
This is a wonderful novel to read if you need escapism and peace in your life right now.
To me, the activity of the novel is just noise – a backdrop for the real story, which is Jen’s growing acceptance of the solitary path her life has taken, and the peace she finds in slowly ceasing her fight against nature and allowing it to become part of her.
It’s a slow burning novel, beautifully written with a wholly meditative sense to it. I particularly enjoyed the philosophical imagery.
On, weeding, but true of life in general:
It didn’t pay to think of how much more there was to be done. The only way to manage the enormity of it all was to focus on one small area at a time, as if working on a large canvas – while keeping a sense of the big picture at the back of your mind.
For all its refreshing rainforest setting, Nest is ultimately set against a very dark story. The disappearance of schoolgirl, Catilin, in the present stirs memories for Jen of another decades-old disappearance:
Caitlin’s parents were stuck. They all were. Waiting. No one could even say ‘dead’, although they all hoped she was, because the alternative was worse.
It horrified me but made me wonder – when a child goes missing, how many of us are thinking that? That instant death is preferable to the ‘alternative’. And is it really?
The theme of parenting – or lack thereof – runs through the novel. Jen felt she didn’t have enough parenting:
She had thought herself mature enough to be treated like any adult, to handle any information. She appreciated now, having worked with children herself, that Aunt Sophie thought she had enough to deal with. She had put Jen’s interests before her own, which was what parents were supposed to do, and more than either of hers had managed.
There’s also more than a little musing on the role of the childless older woman in our society:
Now she was just a husk of a woman. Orphaned. Childless. Little more than bone and sinew and skin. Without feathers to hide beneath or a song to sing.
Jen is an artist, but in a nod to the title of the book, she’s an artist obsessed with birds – painting them, watching them, creating her own sort of nest among them. What is a house, anyway?
The idea of a house was interesting to think about, if you could set yourself apart from it. The cottage had been someone else’s home before it was hers. A family’s. Before that there was no house, no clearing – just trees. Home to birds, possums, koalas, wallabies, bandicoots and goodness knows what. And for so long before that, home to the first people, who did not need to own or destroy to live in a place, or belong.
Buy from Booktopia
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.