Our Shadows tells the story of three generations of family living in Kalgoorlie, where gold was discovered in 1893 by an Irish-born prospector named Paddy Hannan, whose own history weaves in and out of this beguiling novel.
Sisters Nell and Frances were raised by their grandparents and were once closely bound by reading and fantasy. Now they live in Sydney and are estranged. Each in her own way struggles with the loss of their parents.
Little by little the sisters grow to understand the imaginative force of the past and the legacy of their shared orphanhood. Then Frances decides to make a journey home to the goldfields to explore what lies hidden and unspoken in their lives, in the shadowy tunnels of the past.
‘An oblique and poetic novel…a vivid, unsettling study of mortality.‘
‘Weaving together multiple narratives…the novel sketches a family portrait full of love, loss, and regret.’
‘An intellectually strenuous entertainment concerned with the nature and loss of senses, of filial obligations and their cost, of the vertiginous role of chance…another rich and accomplished work. ’
‘A beautifully written and finely imagined novel.’
‘Gail Jones’s new novel, Our Shadows, provides readers with another virtuoso performance, showing a writer fully in control of her medium. It is a poetic and beautifully crafted evocation of shadowy pasts whose traumatic effects (in the world and in individual lives) stretch deep into the present and the future.’
‘Gail Jones deftly and sensitively brings together these disparate stories into a meditation on grief, loss, estrangement, identity and, strangely enough, mining and underground rescue. The concepts and feelings tackled here are beautifully universal, but told in a context that is uniquely Australian. Jones’s novel is an inventive blend of contemporary and historical fiction, real and imagined characters. This is required reading for anyone interested in the state of literary fiction in Australia today.’
‘When lists are made of the great novels of the Australian landscape, [Our Shadows] deserves to be among them.’
‘Gail Jones is a thoughtful, accomplished writer whose work speaks for itself…Praised for her precise, incisive observations, Jones’s writing frequently offers nuanced reflections on the cultural state of Australia as well as quiet revelations about the lives of her characters. Our Shadows is no exception…written like the wave that haunts its imaginative landscape, ebbing and flowing from past generations to the present and back again.’
‘A narrative poised between celebration and condemnation, exploring the space between individual experience and broader societal forces—between fixed historical record and a future still in formation. It is a story that balances, delicately but with intense concentration and craft, the symbolic potency of mining with an account of ordinary lives shaped by daily intimacy with the industry.’
‘A kaleidoscopic, multi-vocal story about the ways we remember and forget the past…Expansive and intimate, intricate and richly textured, with a deep interest in the workings of memory within families as they relate to the historical legacies of people and nations.’
‘Jones’s writing is magnificent, and there are many lines in this book which hint at larger truths. It is a book to be read again and again and again.’
‘Touching on love, illness and grief, it is hauntingly beautiful.’
‘The braid Jones plaits here is complex, entwining fact and invention…[she] moves us back and forth across time with such confident dexterity.’
‘The seam in this mine-like work is deep: there are three levels for three centuries…The language is often poetic. Jones reminds us of Virginia Woolf—the same rapt receptivity. Then there are Joycean moments when Elsie dreams of Fred and their waltzing days: “The smell of him yes one two one two.” Jones writes with a suppleness that brings to mind David Malouf—a cool determination (welcome in this age of stubbornly anonymous prose) not to sound like everyone else.’