Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 28, 2017

Siren, by Rachel Matthews

Siren is the second novel of Melbourne author Rachel Matthews.  It’s a clever title, because it has multiple meanings.  It’s an allusion to the deafening sound of the siren that sounds at the end of a football match, and in this novel it also refers to the end of a football career, and symbolises the end of innocence.  A siren can also be an alarm, a warning people to take action – as perhaps we as a society should if we recognise the novel’s message.  And tragically, in the context of the sixteen year old girl who gets raped after a night of clubbing, the word also carries a wry allusion to the sirens of Homeric myth, gorgeous beings who lured men to their death.  Because sixteen-year-old Jordi is not a gorgeous being luring anybody anywhere: she’s an ordinary, foolish, inarticulate girl who gets in a taxi with two blokes she doesn’t know.  They’re not luring her either.  She goes willingly to her fate.

The novel is unrelentingly bleak.  Jordi lives with her siblings in chaotic squalor,  living on junk food and stumbling over dirty nappies on the floor.  Her mother, Petra, loves her children, but not enough to give them a decent home life.  Her husband Kane is often away chasing work (and women) and Petra is always short of money for the basics so she spends a lot of time out of the house, gambling on Bingo in hope of the miracle.  Jordi loves these feckless parents but she’s beginning to see the truth about them.

In all the world, the only person Jordi can tell is her BFF Shilo, but even so it takes a while for Jordi to hint at what has happened – and Shilo’s reaction is to tell her that she can get compensation from the AFL.  At school, the toxic atmosphere of teenage gossip makes her fearful of being labelled a slut.  The adults around her try to unravel the reasons for her obvious physical and psychological pain, but none of them – her mother, her school counsellor and the doctor – can break through the wall of silence.

The witnesses are silent too. Max, the AFL star confronting a retirement he’s not ready for, tried to stop his team-mate but was too drunk.  Ruby, a co-tenant from downstairs saw a distressed Jordi stumbling out of the apartment, and so did Flo, a homeless woman befriended by both Max and Ruby.  But Max is the only one who has Jordi’s contact details and he’s too conflicted to do anything about it.  His brain is also addled by a combination of alcohol and prescription drugs, and the AFL counsellor who’s supposed to help him transition into life after football is hopeless at unravelling his distress.

Siren is not a subtle story, it’s not meant to be.  The prose is simple and unadorned, and there are no fancy authorial tricks.  It is blunt and forceful because it’s a sordid story that is too often smothered by a powerful silence.

Author: Rachel Matthews
Title: Siren
Publisher: Transit Lounge, 2017
ISBN: 9780995359567
Review copy courtesy of Transit Lounge

Available from Fishpond: Siren


Responses

  1. Wow. And one can only wonder at the truth lurking here. For possibly many girls and women.

    • Yes. It’s something I think about whenever I see those TV news scenes at club venues, with all the drink and the drugs fuddling the brains of the people who are there…

  2. The story is sadly one that isn’t confined to fiction. People are so enraptured with celebs even of minor status that they end up in situations like this

    • The novel certainly has the ring of truth…

  3. […] Matthews first came to my attention with her recent novel Siren (see my review), published by Transit Lounge.  Siren is her second novel: her debut Vinyl Inside was highly […]


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