Cass Moriarty's Reviews > Flame Tip

Flame Tip by Karenlee Thompson
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's review
Apr 21, 2017

really liked it

Flame Tip (Hybrid Publishers 2017) is an appealing collection of short stories by author Karenlee Thompson. What sets apart this collection is the common factor that joins all of the stories together: the terrible Tasmanian Black Tuesday bushfires of 7 February, 1967. Each of the tales has a link - sometimes overt, sometimes more tenuous - with that life-changing day over 50 years ago, and the aftermath. The tragedy left 62 people dead and 900 injured. Pets, livestock and property were destroyed; over 7000 people were left homeless. It was an event that has loomed large in the Tasmanian consciousness, and is counted as one of Australia's worst disasters. As a consequence, these stories are often founded on grief, loss and pain, but the mood is delightfully uplifted by equal examples of resilience, sacrifice and humour.
Norman appealed to me, with his man-bun and his panel van, with his girlfriend named Storm, as he experiences the exhibits at the Tasmanian Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Ardent Sasha with her fickle love; Bertie Taylor, with his knowledge of bushfires like religious fervour. Like A Wall is a love story of sacrifice and devotion. Let Me Tell You is an achingly vivid depiction of the destruction wrought by the bushfires. There are some unusual inclusions, such as a very short story that is basically a list of all someone has lost in the fire - succinct and powerful. One story is from the perspective of birds, Whistling Kites, on the day of the inferno. There is a poem, and an extended personal advertisement. Snapshot introduces us to a deliciously sleazy character, Wes Cramer Junior.
As is often the case with a collection of stories, some are more engaging than others; some would no doubt be uncomfortable and hard to read by people with memories of that day or a similar trauma; some are perfectly formed. Some use the fires front and centre as impetus for the narrative, and for some the bushfire is a tangential aspect that serves only to anchor the narrative in a particular time and place. But all of the stories feature memorable characters, nearly all are told with a cheeky and understated sense of humour, and all of them reflect human experiences and the many ways in which we cope with trauma, loss, infidelity, danger and death. The Australian flavour of the stories is depicted through the language and cultural norms, through the landscape, the weather and the native flora and fauna, and we are reminded of the unique quirks, habits and sayings that join us together as a nation. The fires of that infamous day may have rent us apart, but this collection of short stories demonstrates how we are brought together.
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Reading Progress

April 21, 2017 – Shelved
Started Reading
April 22, 2017 – Finished Reading

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