Already overwrought with grief, Martin and Evie Glass are quite mystified when they are called in to the police station and told by a detective that their father, Noah, only a day after his funeral, is a suspect in the theft of a sculpture from a museum in Palermo where he was holidaying. Mystified, not only because both siblings could never believe their father a criminal, but because their father, although an art historian, had always loathed the art market. Even though their father’s body was found fully clothed, face down in his apartment block’s swimming pool, the coroner had ruled out foul play and declared the cause of death as a heart attack. Both have no idea why their father is a suspect. Martin wants both he and his sister to travel to Italy to try to find out what happened, but Evie decides to move into their father’s apartment leaving Martin to make the journey alone.
The narrative then splits between the past and the present. In the past narrative we witness Noah’s childhood and upbringing, his meeting and relationship with Dora, a potential suspect for the theft. While in the present we are presented with both Martin’s story, as he tries to solve the mystery of the stolen sculpture and his father’s death, and Evie’s story, as she tries to piece together Noah’s life from the curios and items left in his apartment. Although both siblings are devastated, Martin was the favourite, and Evie has always been a tad bitter, resentful, about this. Noah spent a great deal of time with Martin in his life and Evie feels she was left out for much of it. As both siblings recall memories of times with their father you realise that they were competing for his love and attention.
Jones focuses in on family relationships and their dynamics. How they can morph and change after a family member is lost from this relationship. Memories and their recollection are used extensively, and Jones gives us three perspectives in which to view them from.
For me there was an indelible pathos shrouding this novel from start to finish. Grief is a major theme and each character experiences it in varying forms. Grief and how one deals with it, how to ultimately recover from it and move on, is the heart of this novel.
Jones’ prose is impressive and while not being poetic, certainly flows nicely from the first chapter to the last. Although the melancholic atmosphere created by the narrative may feel pervasive, it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. 4 stars.
Gail Jones is the author of two short-story collections, a critical monograph, and the novels BLACK MIRROR, SIXTY LIGHTS, DREAMS OF SPEAKING, SORRY and FIVE BELLS.
Three times shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, her prizes include the WA Premier's Award for Fiction, the Nita B. Kibble Award, the Steele Rudd Award, the Age Book of the Year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award for Fiction and the ASAL Gold Medal. She has also been shortlisted for international awards, including the IMPAC and the Prix Femina.
Her fiction has been translated into nine languages. Gail has recently taken up a Professorship at UWS.
I still trying to find an interview with Jones discussing THE DEATH OF NOAH GLASS, but in the mean time here is a link to Readings and an interview with her discussing another of her novels, A GUIDE TO BERLIN - https://www.readings.com.au/news/david-haworth-interviews-gail-jones