Book review: ‘Between a Wolf and a Dog’ by Georgia Blain

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“It is not quite dark, between a wolf and a dog; a mauve light is deepening like a bruise, the cold breath of the wind a low moan in his ear.” – Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain

Published: 2016

Genre: Contemporary literary fiction

Author fact: Georgia Blain is an Australian author who has written seven novels. I was fortunate to hear her speak about Between a Wolf and a Dog the Melbourne Writers Festival last month.  Her first novel, Closed for Winter, was made into a film in 2009 starring Natalie Imbruglia.

The story: Between a Wolf and a Dog is the story of a fragmented family, set over 24 hours of rain in Sydney, but interspersed with flashbacks to earlier events. Over the past three years, Hilary, a successful filmmaker in her seventies, has watched her family fall apart. Her daughter Ester, the mother of twin girls and a family therapist, tries to offer her patients hope while coming to terms with her own divorce. The life of April, Ester’s sister, has become increasingly aimless as she fails to resurrect her music career. April is desperate to end her three-year estrangement with Ester and see her nieces again. Meanwhile, Ester’s ex-husband Lawrence finds his professional reputation in jeopardy after tweaking political poll results. Absorbed in their own troubles, none of them are aware that Hilary is facing the biggest battle of all: incurable brain cancer.

Why read it?

Despite its difficult themes, I was left with an overall feeling of hope at the end of this novel. Between a Wolf and a Dog certainly highlights the fragility of life and relationships, but not without drawing attention to our capacity for endurance and forgiveness.

By extraordinary coincidence, while drafting this novel, Blain herself was diagnosed with brain cancer. She has shown incredible courage in completing it. During the festival, she told us that the only way she forgets about her mortality is by writing.

Her sentences are beautifully constructed and use all the senses. Writers will find it worth reading for her descriptions of rain alone.

Like all of us, the characters in Between a Wolf and a Dog dwell on past sorrows and future fears, but my lasting impression is that the book celebrates what it is to truly live in the present.

 

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