Bluebottles are common on Australian beaches, their attractive hue concealing the painful poison within. Belinda Castles’ new novel (she previously won the Vogel for The River Baptists and published a historical novel, Hannah and Emil, in 2012) opens at the beach on Christmas Day, 1994. It is an iconic Australian scene, with people ‘wandering between the baking orange sand and the cool, invigorating surf’. Among them, one figure draws the eye:
… a small pink-shouldered man leaping about at the water’s edge. He galloped one way and then the other along a five-metre stretch of sand, like a coach on the touchline, raising his fist to the sky, calling out to the sea. He jumped in the air. He leaned on his knees and shook his head. … Some [of the others on the beach] … kept half an eye on him as he called out to his children from the shore … oblivious as he was to the atmosphere of the beach, its softness, its air of gentle pleasure … feelings surging through him like a heavy swell pushing towards the shore.
There is an effortless sensuality in Castles’ writing, here contrasting the languor of a hot afternoon with the frenetic activity of the man, who, we come to learn, is Charlie Bright.
This review originally appeared in the Newtown Review of Books. You can read the full review here.