Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s debut work The Erratics — winner of this year’s Stella Prize — is a beautifully written memoir about a monstrous mother and the heavy cost of estrangement from one’s family. The quality of its prose is reason enough to embark on the author’s journey into her past, and her battle to claim sovereignty from the cancer of her nuclear family.
Laveau-Harvie writes with an assurance and grace that signals the arrival of an important literary voice. She imbues her work with a dark, savage wit that provides an essential reprieve from what would otherwise be a devastatingly tragic portrait of her family, then and now. Her vivid, lyrical, loving descriptions of the Canadian landscape are noteworthy; but the richness on display in these sections is strangely missing when it comes to more personal matters.
Don’t get me wrong — the writing is never anything less than poetic — but Laveau-Harvie skips over a lot of the specificities of the emotional neglect and abuse from her childhood, and her decision to protect the names of her family members and instead label them as “my sister’s partner”, “my son,” and so forth left me strangely detached, and imbued the book with a slight air of superficiality. The Erratics is exquisitely written; but I feel it only skimmed the surface of her mother’s ferocious dysfunctionality and its everlasting impact. It’s like a beautiful sphere of quartz; perfect, unblemished. A part of me wanted something with jagged edges; something a little less benign. I wanted its insights to be as sharp as the writing.
Format: Paperback / softback
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 20-Mar-2019
Country of Publication: Australia