Book Review: Bright Objects by Ruby Todd

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews the literary thriller Bright Objects by Ruby Todd.

Melbournian Todd’s début novel is an epically existential drama (with nice riffs of humour) that never quite becomes science fiction, instead being far more interested in the characters.

Sylvia Knight lives in the small rural NSW town of Jericho back in January 1997, and works at the local funeral home, which seems slightly macabre given that, for two years, she’s been in post-traumatic torment after a car accident that killed her husband – and very nearly her. She has long-obsessed over who is responsible, and continues to, even as the world prepares for the arrival of a once-in-4000-years comet that will put Halley’s to shame.

Although planning to soon check out, everything changes when Sylvia meets Theo St John, the discoverer of the comet, and the pair become (at great length) close. But what does this mean for Sylvia? And is the local fascination with the comet taking an unhealthy turn?

Despite its potentially drawn-out 424 pages, Todd’s novel needs this huge scope to suitably tell the tale of these people, some of whom feel that their search for meaning is at an end. And every time the going threatens to get wordy or overstated, the author snaps back with some witty character quirk or tense sequence that alters everything we thought we knew.

Maybe the only problem here is that those of us who were actually around in 1997 (hello out there) might be able to guess what will eventually happen, but no matter, because this is still astronomically good.

Bright Objects by Ruby Todd is published by Allen & Unwin NZ. RRP $32.99 (paperback)


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