Questions of Travel, by Michelle de Kretser (2013)

Genre: Literary Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
Questions of TravelI was delighted to find this title on NetGalley right after I’d spotted it on a list of promising summer fiction, several weeks before the release date. NetGalley provides access for 60 days once it’s downloaded – at 500+ pages and with numerous interruptions from library books with shorter loan periods, it’s taken me the full two months to finish reading it. I think it benefits as a result – this is a book to savour and ponder. It follows the lives of two very different people, Ravi (a Sri Lankan) and Laura (an Australian), right from their childhoods equally menaced by violence. Despite a shared start, the two live very different lives. Laura’s inheritance allows her to travel; she goes to Bali and Europe, lands in London and then flatsits in Italy, eventually (ironically) settling down to work for a publisher of travel book. Ravi is an early web designer who dreams of seeing the world, but it takes a devastating tragedy to send him on his way. De Kretser presents her characters and their lives in alternating chapters that paint the words like pictures – we are tourists in their lives, seeing snapshots of what moves and motivates them. But like tourists who turn a corner and come upon an unexpected intimacy, readers are shown much more than we are comfortable knowing.
The writing is mind-blowing at times. I was particularly struck by her reference to reminiscing as “the treadmill of the mind” – it captures beautifully my own tendency to review events with dispassion, a kind of trudging through what happened, forgetting the feelings unless I make the effort. And yet, I am left with the unsettling realization that this multilayered novel is saying much more than I understand. It’s a great book club selection (just note it’s 500 pages!) I would think, ideal for discussing and sharing and working out with a glass of wine and memories of travel.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15790884-questions-of-travel

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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