Disquiet by Julia Leigh

This is a deeply atmospheric and tense novella — a brief book that could be read in an evening or a long rainy afternoon.

A woman and her two young children turn up at a somewhat decaying family estate in rural southern France. From the very first scene there is a sense of a resigned desperation that lives in all the characters, perhaps except for the youngest and most innocent in this sad family group. Death, abandonment and brutality live close by love and honesty.

The reader is kept at a bit of a distance from the inner psychological workings of our adult characters by dispassionate language, lack of inner dialogue, and descriptions of time and place instead of much dialogue. This distance is obviously well-thought out, and exquisitely rendered. The audience must supply a lot of the connections and assumptions about the family. While there is much beauty in the writing and a profound sense of timelessness in this contemporary tale, there is darkness and brutality and sorrow. The combination of the splendors of nature and the harsh realities of life make for a compelling reading experience.

Australian-born author Julia Leigh has multiple talents, including screenwriting and film directing. She wrote the novel Hunter which was made into a movie in 2011, and she also directed and wrote the screenplay for the film Sleeping Beauty, made in 2011.

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