Review: Bruny by Heather Rose

9781760875169The only access to Bruny Island — a 362-square-kilometre island located off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, separated from the mainland by the D’Entrecasteaux Channel — is by boat, or the two vehicle ferries that run across the channel. But when Bruny opens, after four years under construction, a new suspension bridge as high as the Brooklyn Bridge, and two hundred and twenty-seven metres longer, is three months short of completion. Until a deep rumble shatters the tranquillity of the morning, and the bridge quivers and shakes, and drops into the sea. The Bruny Bridge — “a project of national significance,” says premier John Coleman — has been destroyed by terrorists. But he is determined that come March next year, the bridge will open on schedule; and “the next chapter in the success story of Tasmania will begin.”

Tasmanian native Astrid Coleman, a troubleshooter for the UN, answers her brother’s call when he asks for assistance in calming the tumultuous climate back home and lending a hand into the investigation of the bridge bombing. It’s an awkward homecoming, not least because her brother and sister are combative figures on both sides of politics, and her parents are dealing with major health scares, but because of the myriad conspiracy theories flaring tempers among the locals, and igniting diplomatic tensions with Australia’s newest and most important ally, China.

Heather Rose’s Bruny is an enthralling family saga set against the backdrop of the calamity of present day international and national politics. The book has Big Ambition written all over it, defiantly blending two seemingly antithetical genres into a pacy and involving page-turner. It’s an accomplished balancing act that never tilts entirely into full-out family saga or full-blown political thriller; ultimately an evocative, powerful hybrid; gripping and atmospheric, and a stirring love letter to Tasmania. Bruny achieves what great fiction always achieves — it commands us to be aware. Of what, precisely? You’ll need to read it to find out.

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