Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fiction: Notorious by Roberta Lowing

There is something bold and redemptive in Roberta Lowing’s Notorious (House of Ananansi), a debut novel that, unfortunately, never fully lives up to either its early promise or the sum of its parts.

There are moments of beauty here as well as sublime ambition. At times, Notorious puts the reader in mind of Shutter Island and The English Patient: both rich and gorgeous stories. Sadly, though, in the end, Lowing is neither Dennis Lehane nor Michael Ondaatje and her often deeply compelling work becomes bogged in the twinned cogs of ambition and inexperience.

First published in Lowing’s native Australia in 2009, Notorious links the stories of a Polish aristocrat, an Australian bureaucrat and a dead woman with a secret.
That night, like every night, I stand on the balcony and stare at where the forest shadows were deepest, where the wild things were. Where Devlin could be standing. I feel the house sliding into blackness and I look out and wonder, If you can’t see me, am I invisible?
Much of the writing is beautiful. Sublime. And carefully executed. A worthy debut, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize in its original publication year. One looks forward to seeing what this author will dream up next. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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