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The characters in Jennifer Down’s Pulse Points live in small dusty towns, glittering exotic cities and slow droll suburbs; they are mourners, survivors and perpetrators.
In the award-winning ‘Aokigahara’, a young woman travels to the sea of trees in Japan to say goodbye. In ‘Coarsegold’, a woman conducts an illicit affair while her recovering girlfriend works the overnight motel shift in the middle of nowhere. In ‘Dogs’, Foggo runs an unruly gang of bored, cruel boys with a scent for fresh meat. In ‘Pressure Okay’ a middle-aged man goes to the theatre, gets a massage, remembers his departed wife, navigates the long game of grief with his adult daughter.
Jennifer Down, whose first novel, Our Magic Hour, was commended in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, is a masterful stylist whose sharp eye has been compared to that of Helen Garner. Pulse Points is a gutting collection that showcases her singular voice, and reminds us once more that this is a writer of great talent.
‘All the rapture and calamity of youth. Jennifer Down is a writer of rare insight and heart.’
‘Down’s evocation of Audrey’s grief is astute, perceptive and always convincing…It’s compelling writing.’
‘An emotionally sophisticated and impressive novel.’
‘With precise and beautiful prose, the short stories in Jennifer Down’s Pulse Points carry an emotional clarity and intensity that is truly impressive.’
‘A master of short fiction, this short story collection brings together works including her prize-winning ‘Aokigahara’…Down’s prose isn’t afraid of dark subject matter, and handles this with a sharpness and clarity that is a delight to read.’
‘A haunting and evocative collection of stories about quietly courageous characters facing loss in its many forms.’
‘Pulse Points exceeds all expectations…Pulse Points has the precise, arresting prose and depth of feeling of Our Magic Hour, but the short story form magnifies Down’s skill…There are no weak moments here…A human pulse runs through this collection; these stories live and breathe, and as a result Pulse Points is powerful and deeply affecting.’
‘Pulse Points isn’t just made up of technical proficiencies and clever motifs, it is a quick heartbeat.’
‘Jennifer Down is a subtly extraordinary writer, and Pulse Points is one of the best Australian literary offerings we’ll see this year.’
‘This is a finely crafted collection that reminds us how sad and beautiful it is simply to be alive. Down’s debut novel, Our Magic Hour, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for New Writing and she was named a 2017 SMH Best Young Australian Novelist. It’s probably insulting to comment upon how young she is, but the emotional depth of her writing displays a gift that will no doubt continue to unfold as her body of work grows.’
‘Pulse Points is beautiful. It’s a bit like opening a sketchbook and brushing a hand against all the charcoal nudes inside…Down has insight into the human condition beyond her years and a talent for writing realism in unwaveringly sharp prose. In Pulse Points she uses these skills to make a statement about the many different hearts beating in the one universe, however unrelated they may seem. As with Our Magic Hour, readers will feel safe in the hands of such a skilful writer, one able to turn her awareness of the human condition into measured and universal storytelling.’