Posts Tagged ‘Kathryn Gossow’

I signed up late to the 2017 Australian Women Writer’s challenge. Despite those lost months, I committed to reviewing at least six books by Australian women authors, which is known as the ‘Franklin’ challenge. I ended up reviewing seven titles and I would have written more had I not found myself unexpectedly moving house!

What a delightful experience the #AWW has been! I’ve ventured into genres I wouldn’t normally read. I’ve found many absolute gems along the way.

I began with Kathryn Gossow’s Cassandra, an absolutely charming literary coming of age story. “Cassandra is laced with evocative descriptions of rural Queensland. Gossow’s characterisations are convincing and her pacing measured. Early suspense shades into a textured exploration of clairvoyance, dreams, trance states and the predictive powers of Tarot, as Cassie tries to get a handle on her own inner powers; her friend, the ever doubtful Athena, egging her on.”

From there I ventured into crime with Sandi Wallace. I ended up reviewing two titles by this author, Tell Me Why, and Dead Again .  “With wit and a sharp eye for the essentials, Wallace has built a story world that feels real. A page turner with much to savour, Dead Again is a moving and highly engaging read.”

For literary fiction, I turned to Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love “Rose is a masterful writer, her depictions of incidental characters sharply observant, yet her prose is always gentle, haunting. The Museum of Modern Love is a meditation, on art and creativity to a large extent, but above that on pain, physical and emotional pain, the anguish of loss and grief.”

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose, winner of the 2017 Stella Prize. Read more of my reviews at https://isobelblackthorn.com/my-book-reviews/

I went back to crime with L.J. M. Owen’s Mayan Mendacity  my review appearing on the Sisters in Crime Australasia’s website. “In all, I found Mayan Mendacity difficult to put down. Owen has provided her readers with an entertaining story that also informs, without allowing exposition to put a brake on the narrative. Pulling off a story laden with this much technical detail and maintaining a fast pace is quite a feat.”

I then took a detour into historical fiction, unable to pass up the opportunity to review Elisabeth Storr’s  Call To Juno an absolute feast of a read. “This is a story for those who enjoy their historical fiction rich with fine and accurate detail. Call to Juno is intensely visual, bringing ancient Rome to life, composed by an author who clearly knows her subject.”

Finally, I was treated to Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s The Tides Between “The Tides Between pulls the reader in two directions, the desire to continue turning the pages at odds with an equally a strong wish to pause and reflect on its various intricacies, its depth. The only difficulty faced in reviewing a book of this quality is putting it down long enough to scribe reflections. A work I would describe as literary historical fiction, The Tides Between, is a captivating and immersive read.

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Kathryn Gossow is a masterful storyteller who displays great insight and sensitivity in her handling of difficult themes. The result, her debut novel Cassandra, is an extraordinary and engaging coming of age tale.

“On a remote farm in Queensland, Cassie Shultz feels useless. Her perfect brother Alex has an uncanny ability to predict the weather, and the fortunes of the entire family hinge upon his forecasts. However, her own gift for prophecy remains frustratingly obscure. Attempts to help her family usually result in failure.

After meeting with her new genius neighbour Athena, Cassie thinks she has unlocked the secret of her powers. But as her visions grow more vivid, she learns that the cost of honing her gift may be her sanity.

With her family breaking apart, the future hurtles towards Cassie faster than she can comprehend it.”

There is much to love in this novel. The reader is enchanted from the opening scenes, of a very young Cassie playing where she isn’t meant to, under the house; of her encounter with a snake and the nightmare that follows; of her innocent curiosity. “A crackle of excitement pops in her belly. Like Coco-Pops when the milk first goes on.”

Through the early chapters, Cassie soon grows into a teenager, and it is this lonely, rebellious, confused girl eager to belong, who experiments with her own abilities in an attempt to understand them.

Cassandra is laced with evocative descriptions of rural Queensland. Gossow’s characterisations are convincing and her pacing measured. Early suspense shades into a textured exploration of clairvoyance, dreams, trance states and the predictive powers of Tarot, as Cassie tries to get a handle on her own inner powers; her friend, the ever doubtful Athena, egging her on. These moments are convincingly portrayed, never overplayed, each adding another dimension to the fabric of the paranormal. In this fashion, tinges of Jungian psychology and Greek mythology are blended seamlessly into a family drama.

Cassandra rises and flows, rises and flows, the reader held in a deep ocean swell. When the end of the novel is sensed on the horizon, this swell breaks into great waves that eventually deposit the reader on the shore of normality, somewhat transformed by the experience.

A novel with broad appeal, Cassandra is told in well-crafted, elegant prose. The reliance on simile to create a childlike atmosphere works well in my view. Think Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

Gossow’s literary skills shine in her portrayal of Cassie’s altered states of awareness. It is in these scenes that the author demonstrates much empathy, empathy needed in order to render authentic the inner experiences of the protagonist. In this aspect, I am reminded more of Madeleine Thien’s Booker-shortlisted Do Not Say We Have Nothing than I am Paula Hawkins’ bestselling The Girl on The Train. Through all of the numerous scenes of other-wordly introspection, Kathryn Gossow reveals a fine literary talent.

The reader is gifted a gem of a story in Cassandra.  Highly recommended.

I’d like to thank Odyssey Books for my review copy.

Visit Kathryn’s website here.

Buy her book here.