In brief: Rosie and Cray are looking for a change to their soul-sucking city life. When they move to the south west of Western Australia, they meet locals Liza, Ferg and Sam and unite over an unwanted beach development. But a disaster soon affects them all…
The good: Loved the use of Aussie slang and references to local places.
The not-so-good: A quick read (but powerful).
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Setting: Perth and Margaret River, Western Australia
My rating: 8 out of 10
The Break is a quiet, slim book that sneaks up on you and leaves a lasting impression. Reminiscent of the type of cynical love Tim Winton has for Western Australia with similar biting, observant prose, this story looks at the positive and negative aspects of big city living versus life in a small community. It’s a novel with an ensemble of main characters, rather than just one. Two couples are chosen for their differences and the reader follows them as two sets of lives entwine in a way nobody thought would happen.
We first meet Rosie, a disillusioned reporter. One day it’s all too much and she chucks it in. Her partner, Cray, is the same. He’s a FIFO (fly in, fly out worker) for a mine and his longed for promotion is now a step sideways working with people he hates. The couple decide to make a sea change and move from Fremantle down south to Margaret River (translation if you’re not a local – move from the city to the country). Margies has surf, wine, cheese, chocolate and a more relaxed lifestyle – or so they think.
Liza and Ferg have lived on a farm (originally cattle, now trees) just outside Margaret River all their lives. They’re used to the small town feel, of everyone knowing their business. Still, things are not too good between the couple (as Sam, their son says, ‘he gets a funny tingling in his bum’) and there are issues with Ferg’s brother Mike and how he’s treated the family. Now Mike wants to live with them again, which Liza and Ferg have reservations about. Sam, he’s just happy that Mike can help him with his computer.
It takes some time for Rosie and Cray to adjust to life down south, but when a potential development threatens the local community, they meet Sam, Ferg and Liza and form bonds. However, there’s something more worrying on the horizon…
I did enjoy The Break – it made me remember how much Aussie slang I’ve forgotten or simply don’t use in this age of international communication at the click of a mouse or touch of a finger. It has a true blue (real) Aussie ring (sound) to it and made me hanker for times that are simpler. (It’s not just that the book is set some time ago, when dial up internet, Netscape and those coloured Macs were all the rage). However, sometimes the narrative sounded more summarised rather than fleshed out. I would have loved to see more of the development of the friendship between the two couples as they seem to go from casual friends to close friends quite quickly. On the other hand, I don’t think the event that was life changing would have been as powerful if we knew all there was to know about the characters.
I must commend Deb Fitzpatrick on the way she handled the tragic event of The Break, which is based on a real event that happened in the area. It was handled with sensitivity and care and reflected the anguish and devastation that occurred. It also reflects the pain and uselessness felt by those involved. The aftermath was beautifully handled and gives a spark of hope.
I enjoyed the themes of dissatisfaction with the rat race/your lot and feeling a fish out of water in a new area. Fitzpatrick nailed the sense of isolation and being an outsider that is common to Aussie country towns. I would have liked to have read more about Mike’s addiction, but I think the lack of detail helped to make his character more of the unpredictable enigma that the others think he is.
A beautifully written story that is unsettling yet celebrates life.