This is a book about mothers and daughters; about what it means to be both a mother and a daughter and what this familial bond means for a woman’s sense of self. Gaelle has fled her thirtieth birthday party, her heart-surgeon husband and her life in Sydney. In the small western Australian seaside town of Siesta Park she finds herself befriending the teenage Selena. Through her, Gaelle revisits her own childhood and adolescence as she recounts her own fractured upbringing. Until the age of six she lives with her grandparents on their farm in rural France, her mother then takes her on a journey across several countries where they live a rootless existence, grounded only in the fantastical stories that her mother spins – stories that reflect her own ambivalence about the power of the mother–daughter relationship.
Gaelle is searching for her own redemption. Her life has been touched by tragedy and she struggles to trust in the love of her husband and in the strength of their marriage. She takes endless photographs capturing the play of light, “the transition from dark to dawn to day, feeling the minutiae of elapsed time”. Her own sense of confusion over where events have taken her is transferred to the reader who senses what has happened but it is not confirmed until the end of the book. Everything is all seen through Gaelle’s eyes and while this leads to a wonderful immersion in her world, it does also mean that the reader can be left frustrated and wanting to know more.
It is, however, a beautifully written, sensitive book. It is filled with contrasting images that leave impressions of light and shade; mirroring the light and shadow of Gaelle’s photography. It is at its strongest in the interplay of metaphor and visual imagery; an interplay that leaves an enduring sense of richness.
This is Natasha Lester’s first novel. After she left her job as a cosmetics marketing executive, she completed a Master of Creative Arts. What is left over, after won the 2008 T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction and Natasha has recently been an awarded an Allen & Unwin Varuna Publisher Fellowship (2010) to work on her second novel. Her short stories and poems have been widely published in journals such as Overland, indigo journal and Wet Ink. She lives in Perth with her husband and three children.
For more about the author and her work, please visit http://www.natashalester.com.au/
Title: What is left over, after
Author: Natasha Lester
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Publication Date: October 2010