Ailsa's Reviews > The Life to Come

The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser
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really liked it
bookshelves: australian

“She showed Glenice a book whose cover featured Ned Kelly, Donald Bradman and an Anzac. It was called Australian Heroes and had never been out of print.”

Upon receiving The Life to Come as a gift I groaned inwardly. Nobody in Australia reads contemporary Australian fiction unless they have to - because it’s bad (yeah I’m saying it. fight me). So it was truly a christmas miracle when it turned out to be FANTASTIC. Almost short stories, the characters are woven together by a connection to Australia and possibly the most detestable character ever created: Pippa, a self-absorbed yuppy novelist. I really can’t do it justice in a review. Can’t recommend The Life to Come highly enough especially if you’re from Sydney. (Pippa’s inlaws make me physically squirm with recognition. When her father-in-law refers to people of the Vietnamese countryside as “unspoilt”, I think a part of my mind died from cringe. I’m convinced that, like Pippa, Michelle De Kretser must be taking inspiration from real life dinner parties and writing it down in a little notebook because IT’S SO ACCURATE. )


An aside: Glebe is the suburb in which I both lived and worked for the entirety of 2018. It's a novelty to recognise the setting and effortlessly visualise where the characters spatially. This must be what living in New York or London is like. De Kretser really nails Sydney: Jacarandas in bloom, the antiseptic Northern suburbs (‘Chatswood doesn’t count’ haha), terraces subdivided awkwardly for max rental yield.

“The suburb was moneyed boho chic…” I furrowed my brow.
“ . . . further down Glebe Pt Rd, the suburb began its social slide, its Victorian terraces given over to students and social housing. Not all the graffiti was licensed. Sizeable rats made merry in its cafes." That’s more like it.

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“After some difficulty, a professor who would admit to having once read an Australian novel was found.” 5

“all had been published in the past twenty years. Pippa read nothing older, nothing in translation and very little that didn’t concern women’s lives.”

“Cassie was oaty porridge: pale, reassuring, wholesome.” 33

“Cassie was one of the few people in Sydney that knew that Pippa had once been called Narelle. Pippa had filed the application to change her name on her eighteenth birthday. She said. ‘No one called Narelle’s ever going to win the Booker.’ “ 47

“She saw herself plainly, one of those skinny old women with a round belly: a spider.” 121

“Celeste realised that Pippa would always need to demonstrate her solidarity with the oppressed - Indigenous people or battery hens. ” 127

“I’m the only person my age with an Arts degree who hasn’t read those guys like Foucault… The big division used to be between people who were born before the Second World War and people who were born after. Now it’s between people who know about post-structuralism and the rest of us.” 129

“Intelligence is unAustralian.” 145

“Something not immediately apparent about the Elkinsons was the way they picked up and echoed each other’s remarks… It was a form of birdsong: communal, serving to identify and bind.” 198

“never stray south of Foy’s” 211

“For the first time, she saw the glamour of oppression.” 219

“vegetarians were the Falun Gong to Pippa’s Chinese embassy.” 234

“She wanted to preserve the landscape that lay beyond. Otherwise, there will only be this life: willed into being, shipshape and all around her.” 260

“All around me are ordinary people and I am ordinary like them.” 284

“The books from which Pippa was currently drawing inspiration were grouped between two bookends. ‘My touchstones.’ Said Pippa.” 313
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2019 – Started Reading
January 2, 2019 – Shelved
January 8, 2019 – Shelved as: australian
January 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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George Thanks for the encouragement- it's on my bookshelf. I will look at reading it sooner than later! I think you might like Elizabeth Harrower's The Watch Tower. Set in Sydney in the 1940s, it has an eerie mood, quite unlike anything I have read, though maybe close to The Well by Elizabeth Jolley. Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things, Animal People and The Children are also very good reads. Then there's the magnificent Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.


George I just finished this very good novel. I enjoyed the variety of interesting, ordinary characters who get on with living their lives. As you highlight above, the writing is very good, with lots of interesting, thought provoking lines.


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