Despite its overriding bleakness, there’s a lyrical beauty to AS Patric’s Miles Franklin award-winning Black Rock White City. It is a novel that refuses to conform to expectations. It is a powerful, relentless journey through a long dark tunnel, with few glimpses of light, and very little to warm the soul. We want this story of migrated Serbian couple to end well. Jovan and Suzana have already been through so much. But Black Rock White City isn’t about happy endings; it’s about our capacity to keep on keeping on; to outlive the past by picking up the pieces of a shattered life and patching together something sustainable. Something worth living for.
Jovan and Suzana migrated to Melbourne after the Bosnian War. They are both deeply damaged and dysfunctional as a result of those events, which gradually come to light as Patric flits back-and-forth between their perspectives and memories. Black Rock White City examines the extent to which they can recover from the tragedies that have afflicted them; and whether they are more capable of doing so together or apart.
Running parallel with this story of survival is the mysterious graffiti scrawled on the hospital where Jovan works. The deeds, and the messages, becoming increasingly gruesome as the novel draws to its conclusion, and this provides Black Rock White City with some narrative momentum; a centrepiece from which the rest of the novel revolves. There’s also some prevalent commentary on refugees woven into the narrative, too; one particularly searing moment sees Jovan dismissed as an immigrant because he is neither black nor Asian.
There is nothing clear-cut about Black Rock White City. It is not an easy read. But it’s a rewarding one, and perhaps one of those rare books that warrants, and requires, re-reading to truly understand and appreciate its nuances.
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Transit Lounge Publishing
Publisher: Transit Lounge Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Apr-2015
Country of Publication: Australia