I’m working my way through my lovely box of library books while in Melbourne lockdown and finally got around to reading this much-raved-about book.
I couldn’t put The Choke down, even though the subject matter is devastating and confronting. Sofie Laguna’s simple writing style evokes simple, yet complex, lives and beautiful Australian landscapes.
The theme can be summed up as ‘One man’s lasting trauma from WW2 screws up his own family, and anyone who comes near them, for three generations.’
There’s a good reason this was nominated for so many awards, including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Nominee for Fiction (2018), Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Book of the Year Fiction (2018), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) Nominee for Literary Fiction (2018), The Stella Prize Nominee for Longlist (2018), Voss Literary Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2018).
Highly recommend, but all the trigger warnings.
From the blurb:
Abandoned by her mother as a toddler and only occasionally visited by her volatile father who keeps dangerous secrets, Justine is raised solely by her Pop, an old man tormented by visions of the Burma Railway. Justine finds sanctuary in Pop’s chooks and The Choke, where the banks of the Murray River are so narrow they can almost touch—a place of staggering natural beauty that is both a source of peace and danger. Although Justine doesn’t know it, her father is a menacing criminal and the world she is exposed to is one of great peril to her. She has to make sense of it on her own—and when she eventually does, she knows what she has to do.
A brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power, guns and violence, in which grown-ups can’t be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature, The Choke is a compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in deep trouble.