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Shell by Kristina Olsson - Book Review

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by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published April 27th 2019
Australia Comes of Age
Kristina Olsson has a journalist's eye for a story and a novelist's sensibility for developing characters that slowly come into focus. Shell is set in the 1960s as life in Australia was on the brink of change. The Vietnam War loomed large as the birthday lottery of conscription commenced. Another lottery was in place to help fund construction of the Sydney Opera House.

Kristina Olsson - Shell Book Review
Kristina Olsson - Shell Book Review


Journalist Pearl Keogh identifies with the anti-war protests but cannot be seen to take sides in her profession. Her underlying anxiety being for her two younger brothers whom she has lost contact with. A newly arrived glass sculptor, Alex Lindquist, becomes her friend and sometime lover, it's heady stuff for the times. We see Australia through the eyes of Pearl and Alex at a time when women are stepping up in the workforce, a bold new building is taking shape and the Vietnam war is a flashpoint for lives caught in the balance.

Shell by Kristina Olsson
Shell by Kristina Olsson


Shell is set predominantly in Sydney in 1965 with a focus on Sydney Opera House and it's famed architect Utzon, the wonders of glass, conscription, gender roles and themes of guilt and abandonment.

Photo credit: Jørn Utzon (1918–2008), Model of Sydney Opera House, section, 1957 – 1973. Wood and foam board.
Photo credit: Jørn Utzon (1918–2008), Model of Sydney Opera House, section, 1957 – 1973. Wood and foam board.


This is evocative, lyrical, intelligent, perceptive, intricate and intriguing writing. The mark of an excellent book is not wanting to leave the times, places and people that are alive in these pages. The hardback edition has a beautifully produced cover, the books title alluding to the construction of the iconic landmark design of the Sydney Opera House.

Shell by Kristina Olsson
Shell by Kristina Olsson


My vote for Independent Book of the Year.
Published by Simon and Schuster.
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Why? The Making of an Iconic Landmark
Where: Available in all good bookstores and online
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