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The Science of Appearances

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A brilliant story of family and heredity, of the things that bind us together and that wrench us apart.

Dominic and Mary are twins, but they are also opposites: Dominic, the first-born, is thoughtful and quiet, driven by the responsibility he feels over his father's death. His logical mind draws him towards the pursuit of science and knowledge. Mary, who loves to draw, is p
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 29th 2016 by Scribe Publications
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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An enjoyable read with many layers.
The various historical aspects of the time are in the background; rationing and unemployment, Catholics on the outer, Communism, pre-martial sex, Jews and the survivors. The characters of the non-identical twins Dom and Mary develop well and it was interesting to see their transition from small town Kyneton to the big smoke of Melbourne.
There is also a solid debate of nature and the environment versus the benefits/risks of the new science of genetics.
May 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Imagine my excitement: foot in the door in a publishing business, things are going well, people praising my nascent work, and two weeks in I find out we get free books.

I'd finished Milk & Honey and Discipline and Punish the same day, on the train. And there happened to be laying in my department, a small pile of advance reading copies. They all looked pretty atrocious, except for this.

The story of two twins, male and female, chalk and cheese. A traumatic rending apart of the siblings. Set in Mel
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australia, c21st, 16review
The Science of Appearances is Jacinta Halloran’s third novel, and although it’s less intense than its predecessors, I enjoyed it very much.

Dissection (2008, see my review) was Halloran’s debut: it tells the story of a doctor in personal and professional crisis when a malpractice suit is lodged against her. Pilgrimage (2012, see my review) is also an exploration of self-doubt, tracing the psychological journey of a paediatrician with a secular-scientific view of the world who is suddenly confront
Sep 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this tender exploration of nature vs environment through a memorable set of non-identical twins. This historical book traverses so many familiar stomping grounds: Kyneton, Coburg, Melbourne Uni, St Kilda but well before my time. I didn't enjoy the eugenics tangent though it is terrifying that Richard Berry (who has numerous buildings at the uni named after him) publically espoused eugenic ideas. I worried about Dominic and Mary so much but was happy that no major expected calamity befe ...more
Michael Livingston
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
A readable and entertaining slice of historical Melbourne, telling the story of twins who leave Kyneton for the big smoke. I liked but didn't love it - it's smartly constructed, and the portrait of an earlier Melbourne is lovely, but I didn't find the plot or the writing hugely memorable. ...more
Devorah Komesaroff
Very well written and intriguing story. Enjoyed the rich character development too.
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: terrys
A very enjoyable read, nice to recognise places in Melbourne.
Misha Ali
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to give this a three star rating because while it remains interesting throughout, there's a bit of a slump in the middle where things slow to a crawl and it all became a bit dull for me. Then, suddenly, a ridiculous number of things happen in the space of just a few pages. Overall, I enjoyed this book. ...more
Sharon Lee
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this as so much of it was very familiar - country towns, class, Melbourne, uni etc. at times I felt like I was reading was a literary version of "The Sullivan's". Mary and Dom were interesting characters, a study of nature vs nurture. I'm not sure the undertones of scientific theory were clear enough or necessary but they weren't overwhelming. A good book. ...more
Lesley Gaspar
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book that set the scene of the period with clarity. There were very interesting relationships between the main characters much of which was of a difficult nature.
Using the emerging science of genetics to show the bonding between the twins. Descriptions of places, mores of the era, as well as the interpersonal relationships were very well written. A book that kept one reading to see what developed and how it would resolve the difficult personal relationships.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read and great sense of place in 1950s Victoria.
Karen Bartlett
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Twins Dominic and Mary are growing up in country Victoria in (although not specified) I think the late 40's early 50's? Dom arrives home one day to an emergency - his father is unwell, a heart attack, and he is sent to fetch the doctor... but his father dies. Mary is forced to leave school and clean at the local Presbytery to help make ends meet, but unwelcome advances from a predatory local priest are the catalyst to her running away to Melbourne to chase her artistic dreams and forge a life fo ...more
Debbie Lamb
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
A beautiful book highlighting the 1950's era in rural Victoria and Melbourne which I love to examine and delve into. An interesting exploration of genetics and DNA, which at times became a little overwhelming from a non-science brain. I didn't warm to the characters, particularly Mary but was interested enough to continue reading. The ending seemed a little rushed and was full of far more delicious material for deeper probing rather than quite detailed descriptions of the genetics element. ...more
Chris P
Jan 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
This was a book that was full of possibilities but ultimately too simplistic and contrived to make the most of them. The author received a grant from the Australian government - I want my money back. Very disappointing.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Vividly written, with rich and well-crafted characters and a compelling storyline. The events of the story didn't progress a lot, but the characters did. It was good to find an author who doesn't rely on crazy events and plot twists to craft a breathtaking narrative. ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting read about family and how simple happenings can pull you a part. There were so many paths this book took and it gave you a real feeling for the 1950’s. Choices people make that affect their relationships.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally you open a book and immediately delight in the artistry of its prose, lingering on passages that are crafted with a deft and thoughtful hand by a masterly observer of human spirit and behaviour.

Jacinta Halloran's third novel, The Science of Appearances is such a book and it rewards the reader not just with its insightful and graceful writing, but with characters that are richly and lovingly drawn so that the reader's affection for them endures well beyond the final pages.

Twins Domin
Sheila Pritchard
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this well written book. It was a leisurely read. The story of boy/girl twins born in Australia and taking different paths was interesting. Both stories were believable and although this wasn't an "exciting" book in the sense of crime or intrigue, it had enough twists an unexpected turns to keep me interested. ...more
Fiona Breedon
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a really enjoyable read - telling the story of twins, a brother and sister - Dominic and Mary, from their early days in country Victoria into adulthood in post war Melbourne. Halloran's prose is rich without being flashy and I was convinced by her characters and cared about the challenges which beset them both. The threads of their lives and the other people who surround them are cleverly woven. There are family secrets, revealed near the end, which add depth to the story and keep the re ...more
Jeanie Blyth
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this; beautifully descriptive. It echoed fond memories of my year living in Kyneton, while the predicaments of the twins and their mother rang true. The end felt rushed, compared to the earlier pace. Considering lots of new information kept being layered in, I felt a bit skittled and unsettled at the end, wanted a postscript.
My March 2017 book club book.

A coming of age story about two very different twins growing into two very different people. While I didn't quite fall for the characters (though that's on me, bildungsroman is not my genre) it was hard not to root for these two to come out on top. Human, enjoyable, a lovely book.
Brenda Kittelty
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this portrait of rural Victorian and Melbourne life in the 1940s and 50s. Part coming of age novel and part history of science, art and bohemian life, it was a joy from first page to last.
Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Notes for me: Fraternal twins Mary & Dominic and their separate yet intertwined metamorphosis into adulthood in country Victoria/Melbourne in the '50s. ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Vivid and memorable characters.
Anna Pelle
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book but struggled to finish it . I really felt the author took too long to make a point , so much so , that I lost interest in the story.
Feb 13, 2017 marked it as to-read
Picked this up as a blind date from my local library for Valentines Day ( or well Library Lovers Day). Can't wait to see how it goes! ...more
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a story about fraternal twins who grow up in the country but move to melbourne after the loss of their father. One studies at university. The other goes to art school. They both fall in and out of love. This was a simple story and a simple read. I didn't feel for any of the characters, got bored by the historical references and felt that scenes that were supposed to move me, were empty and hollow. I found Robbie Cameron's colloquial dialogue not true to his character, as a country turned ...more
Mary Holmes
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the 1950s Kyneton and Melbourne depiction. Mary's character was likeable and well developed but I was frustrated that other characters eg Mrs Quinn were not as well explored. Book seemed to be going nowhere until second half when science of genetics was introduced. This tied up many threads. The book included a few cliches and long bows but overall a good read. ...more
Amanda Bailey
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: avenue-book-club
The book has an openness that wants to listen to experiences from different sides of divisions of age, faith and health. It is a delightful book.
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