Marianne's Reviews > Desire Lines

Desire Lines by Felicity Volk
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it was amazing

“When you lie to protect other people, it’s a good lie and you don’t have to confess.”

Desire Lines is the second novel by Australian author, Felicity Volk. “Are you still a liar?” What could lead to this spite-filled annual text, temporarily unsent, from an arctic ice cave? Almost sixty years earlier, the intended recipient was the seven-year-old son of a sadistic, vicious, controlling father and a helpless mother, living in the poorest parts of mid-twentieth century London; the sender, a botanist’s granddaughter from the suburbs of Australia’s fledgling national capital.

The distance between these two extremes, traversing orphans transplanted, the polar seed vault, and the architecture of buildings and landscapes, is one filled with love and lust, cruelty and kindness, history and heartache, and, yes, many lies.

As the daughter of a solicitor and a school teacher, Evelyn Waddell was taught the importance of telling the truth from an early age, even if her grandmother introduced her to the nuances of that sometimes-woolly concept - “Evie concluded that God’s truths were as slippery as the algae growing on the stones in Grandma’s fishpond” - so she feels entitled to honesty.

For all of his early life, Padraig Ciaran O’Connor has been lied to, and made complicit in lies; the expectation of being served falsehood comes naturally to him, and lying, for the purpose of impressing others, or rationalising his actions (even to himself), is virtually innate. “It wasn’t just that people found truth inconvenient, it was that they found truth painful for the way it took an apparently solid thing and exposed it as a facade.”

Until a high school teacher recognised his potential, Paddy’s life was a catalogue of cruelty, such that he was convinced of “the inherently untrustworthy nature of happiness.” This disillusionment with life and resignation to misery taints his every decision, and despite his career success, he seems incapable of believing in a happy future.

Alternating narratives describe significant life events for these two strong but flawed characters: childhood, adolescence, first love, marriage and, eventually, a passionate affair. Volk is a master wordsmith, able to evoke a scene: “From a distance, the undulating lavender rows ran into each other, like purple corduroy, ribbed and velvety” and “Molong and its dry fields, where aspiration was thin-sown, ambition was seldom watered and expectation grew stunted and cowed” and “With her head resting on one of Daddy’s books, she inhaled its grave oldness”; or an emotion like heartbreak: “Da – he said we were millstones around his neck. I asked Father Murray what that meant. He said a millstone is a heavy burden. If I don’t eat cake, I won’t be so heavy.” Beautifully written, this is a moving and thought-provoking read.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Better Reading Preview and NetGalley and Hachette Australia.
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Reading Progress

January 23, 2020 – Shelved
January 23, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
February 13, 2020 – Started Reading
February 14, 2020 –
page 44
February 15, 2020 –
page 154
February 16, 2020 –
page 263
February 17, 2020 –
page 426
February 17, 2020 –
page 433
February 17, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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Dale Harcombe Great review Marianne.

Marianne Thanks, Dale

Jülie ☼♄  Great review Marianne, this sounds like a worthy read.

Gloria (Ms. G's Bookshelf) Great review Marianne, I’ve just started reading this one!

Sharah McConville Great review! I enjoyed this one too.

Marianne Thanks, ladies

Susan Bray DeLong I liked your review but I couldn’t give it five stars. Needed further editing I think.

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