I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published August 22nd 2013
I bought Meg Mundell's debut novel, Black Glass, back in 2011 when all the Borders stores were shutting down and their books were ridiculously cheap. An Australian novel that sounded a bit different to others, I really wanted it to be good, as I often feel I have to look elsewhere for some variety in this country's literature. Fortunately, this book did not disappoint.
The story takes place in Melbourne in the not-too-distant future and focuses on sisters Tally and Grace. They've made plans to head to the city together but after a disaster at home which kills their dad, they end up at the big smoke separately, with Grace under the impression Tally is dead.
While the driving force of the narrative is the question whether they will ever be reunited, most of the focus is actually placed on the way the pair negotiate their way through this new world. It's not Melbourne as we know it, but a city where 'undocs' like them are forced to live on the margins of society and struggle to find food, money and even water. It's also a life that is as new to them as it is to us.
Depicted through notebook entries, recordings and other means of surveillance, as well as traditional prose, the story is the sisters is interspersed with those of other characters, like journalist Damon, who specialises in reporting on the lower levels of society, and 'Moodie' Milk, both of whom are trying to carve out a place for themselves in this world as well.
Of all the characters, it was Tally who stole the show for me. I found her to be the most relatable character and Mundell's talent for dialogue comes out here as some scenes consist entirely of Tally's chatter, and while it comes at the expense of any reference to the setting, you still get such a sense of the world she inhabits, as well as her age. Grace was harder for me connect with, but that's just part of her personality.
There was one issue I had with the book though; it ended too suddenly. After getting to know the characters and their problems and being completely absorbed in this world, I was left wanted to know more. I wanted know what happened next. While this criticism may sound like I just loved it so much that I didn't want to put the book down, I think my problem was that you aren't really eased back into the real world. But it's a testament to the rest of book that my opinion of the ending did not dampen my overall recollection of it.
Since the release of Black Glass in 2011, Mundell has also come out with a collection of eight short stories called Things I Did For Money, which was released in February 2013. I haven't got my hands on it yet, but perhaps it's time to check that one out too.