Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 6, 2015

Anchor Point, by Alice Robinson

AnchorPoint_Cover-hi-res-2.jpg As you could tell from the Opening Lines of Anchor Point that I posted a day or two ago,  I was thoroughly impressed by this debut novel.  It’s an absorbing, satisfying book that suggests a promising future for Melbourne author Alice Robinson.

What precipitated ten-year-old Laura’s swollen eye in that opening scene was that she had broken a pot created by her mother, an amateur artist.  The drama that ensues has lifelong implications for Laura who ends up becoming mother to her five-year-old sister Vik and a helpmeet for her father, who is a simple but single-minded man, devoted to the hardscrabble land on which he hopes to develop sheep pasture.   She is a mere child when she helps Bruce to clear-fell the land and help with the lambing…

The writing is vivid:

More months passed.  The palms of Laura’s hands, like the surface of the land, were changing.  Blisters rose like pearls of water, breaking, bleeding, running dry. Then the skin hardened – so much so that it started cracking as the weather grew cold.  Blood and then pus marked the fissures in the tissue along the lifeline and along the one for love. The cracks took ages to heal, but she couldn’t very well not use her hands.  Fixing the ute’s engine, covered in grease, head pounding through the fumes, she thought her skin might come right off.  (p.63)

Habits of guilt and self-sacrifice define Laura’s life, compromising her relationship with Luc, the man she meets at Agricultural College, and with her sister.  But she is sustained always by her love of the land, and its pre-eminence:

The house looked long-abandoned, falling into the dry earth.  Paint worn away by weather. Verandah sagging. Foundations shifted like rheumatic joints, as though it hurt the wooden skeleton to stay still.  Lopsided, the house gave the impression that after sliding into disrepair for years, soon it would slip all the way into dust. With only so many hours in the day, so many pairs of hands, Bruce had concentrated on the animals, the land. Laura understood.  She would have done the same.  (p.168)

Over the decades between 1984 and the near future in 2018, the novel traverses Laura’s childhood and adolescence on the farm; her sojourn in Sydney as a student and manager of a plant nursery;  and her father’s decline and her return to the land.  As time passes the cruel reality of Australia’s drying climate becomes a powerful undercurrent and while Laura is forced to acknowledge that Luc’s environmental activism has achieved very little, it influences her new vision for the land she had so laboriously cleared with her father.

Though she didn’t fully ascribe to all the radical things Luc thought, and fought for, she had spent enough time in the last decade at rallies and talking in bars to know that there were better ways of doing things at the farm, ways that would cost less and last longer.  Ways that would protect the place.  Not harm it.  The old Bruce would have resisted such changes; they just weren’t the way things were done.  Laura felt a stab of remorse at that.  More guilt.  But she wasn’t entirely the same daughter who had left all those years before.  She couldn’t erase what she knew.

If the work was hers to do, surely that gave her some right to choose how it should be done. (p. 174)

What Laura wants to do is to replant, and to rehabilitate the land.  But Luc is always going to be at home in the city, not in the bush…

The apocalyptic conclusion in Anchor Point places the novel in the new genre of ‘cli-fi’ – fiction about the impact of climate change and global warming, but it’s not a proselyting novel, and the cli-fi theme has equal weight with themes of secrets and lies; hope and disillusionment; resilience and recovery.  The prose resonates with an intimate knowledge of the landscape, and the characters are authentic.  And I really liked the way Robinson subverted my expectations about a couple of plot points and resolved them without sentiment.

Highly recommended.

Update: you can read an extended interview with the author here.

Author: Alice Robinson
Title: Anchor Point
Publisher: Affirm Press, 2015
ISBN: 9781922213617
Review copy courtesy of Affirm Press

Availability

Fishpond: Anchor Point
or direct from Affirm Press.


Responses

  1. new ”cli fi in the classroom” link http://www.teleread.com/cli-fi/academia-goes-cli-fi-2/ are you teaching courses with cli fi in title? plans? RSVp #Clifi

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  2. I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

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    • I hope you love it like I did:)
      (I am so very tempted to talk about particular bits that I really admired, but trying to be a good reviewer I am not going to spoil the reading for anyone).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Update: see my review here. […]

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  4. I’m interested by the cli-fi aspect but must confess to being turned off by the farming aspect – so many Australian novels seem to focus on the farm life story, it doesn’t do all that much for me – despite (or perhaps because of!) having grown up on a farm of sorts.

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    • Ah yes, that’s a common phenomenon all over the world – and there is a character in the story who can’t wait to escape it!

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  5. […] you will know if you saw the Opening Lines to Alice Robinson’s debut novel Anchor Point, and my enthusiastic review, I am delighted to add another author to those I can confidently recommend to readers of this […]

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  6. […] McCalman, Anson Cameron, Gerry Gill, and two lovely authors reviewed here, Alice Robinson (Anchor Point) and Jane Rawson (A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists). Without exception they spoke with […]

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  7. […] Lisa at ANZLitLovers also enjoyed the novel. […]

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  8. Whispergums Sue: ”I don’t think Alice’s book can be pigeonholed in that way.” But Alice herself calls it #clifi. !

    Like


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