The Sunlit Zone (2012) was written by Australian author Lisa Jacobson. I wouldn’t necessarily normally pick up this kind of novel in verse, but when it was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, it caught my eye.
Set in the near future with a narrative arc spanning 30 years from 2020 to 2050, The Sunlit Zone is by turns playfully ethereal and darkly disturbing, not least for the unsettling familiarity of the damaged world it presents as our possible future. The book’s lasting appeal comes from its mythic impetus as much as its narrative skill, and Jacobson’s lyrical engagement with the Orphic tradition. Only after one has plumbed the depths and stared into the abyss can one fully appreciate the dazzling riches of a place that teems with life, though not necessarily life as we know it.
I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book for some reason, but I somehow ended up loving it. It’s got slowpocalypse, Aussie sense of place, beautiful (and sometimes heart-wrenching) description, genepunk, family drama, terrorism, sexuality, humour, even echoes of future-tech almost-selkieness – and all in deft, delicious verse. Nothing wraps up neatly, yet it feels satisfying.
Little flaws here and there were not enough to knock it off a five-star rating for me. This isn’t like anything else.
Author bio from arts.gov.au:
Lisa Jacobson’s verse novel, The Sunlit Zone, was published by Five Islands Press in 2012. This book was shortlisted for the 2012 Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize and, as a manuscript, for the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. An earlier poetry collection, Hair & Skin & Teeth, was published by Five Islands Press (1995). Her work has received international recognition in New York, London and Indonesia, with poetry represented in The Oxford Book of Modern Australian Verse, The Best Australian Poems 2010 and Adrian Hyland’s Kinglake 350. In 2011 she was awarded the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize.
See also reviews of The Sunlit Zone by:
Elizabeth Claire Alberts at Text Journal
Read a sample from this book at Five Islands Press [PDF].
This book review is part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.
Categories: arts & entertainment