BRUNY – Heather Rose

In the wake of the tragic and unsettling domestic terrorism in the United States and its rolling coverage, I thought I’d dip out of global politics and dive into a book. Enter Heather Rose’s latest release ‘BRUNY’, not exactly an escapist novel but a cautionary tale for ‘unprecedented times’ which sits somewhere between sobering fiction and satire.

BRUNY opens with a damaging explosion on a nearly constructed six-lane suspension bridge uniting Tasmania and Bruny Island, setting the stage for a whodunnit with high stakes – our way of life. Our heroine, Ace Coleman, investigates why the bridge in this small community is so divisive and we find still waters run deep in Aussie politicking, interpersonal relationships and difficult questions on the global stage.

BRUNY explores the (unlikely yet) intriguing web of The Coleman family and their connections in Tassie, greater Australia and abroad. Siblings Ace, JC and Max work for the UN as a mediator, and are leaders in the Liberal and Labour parties respectively.

The book makes a strong case for cultivating and protecting our most precious assets – from environment to democracy as well as culture, family and personal values. I fell deep into the mystic current of BRUNY, with its sublime evocation of Tasmania’s landscape, sharp lashings of political and family drama and Ace getting her groove back. Political analysis benefits from a tree or sea change and BRUNY provides new perspectives, including a suggestion that the lack of support to the arts and culture in Australia has made the nation a sitting duck in this fable.

Tasmania is celebrated both for being a near pristine and self-sustaining ecology and for what it represents, from activism to isolation. Jostling for position with the wisdom of the land is Angus, the patriarch, a former beloved Labour leader and amateur thespian. He is a sage and charming touchstone in the throws of dementia – speaking only in phrases from Shakespeare’s plays.

The story has improbable and predictable moments, as well as surprises and creepy confluences with contemporary life. It’s a drama fit for our time and BRUNY’s wild elements achieve a moving equanimity.