Stella Prize Longlist Book of the Day, Book 8: Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us
Each weekday between now and the announcement of the 2016 Stella Prize shortlist on March 10, we’ll be turning the Stella spotlight on a different longlisted author and their book. Today is day 8, and our featured book is…
The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau
What the Stella Prize judges said:
Set on the north coast of NSW in the aftermath of a young girl’s death from cancer, The World Without Us traces the varying effects of grief on the remaining members of her family while emphasising the wider world in which those lives are embedded: a world in which ecological breakdown operates both as metaphor and disturbing fact. Mireille Juchau uses anxieties about the fragility of the natural systems that sustain our lives as a referent for her story of love and loss.
The World Without Us is an acute portrait of individuals who persist in the aftermath of loss, recorded in prose that is witty and self-aware, and capable of making poetry from the most mundane aspects of the everyday. It is a book that reminds us that a single human loss can fall with terrible force on those who are left behind.
It has been six months since Tess Müller stopped speaking. Her silence is baffling to her parents, her teachers and her younger sister Meg, but the more urgent mystery for both girls is where their mother, Evangeline, goes each day, pushing an empty pram and returning home wet, muddy and dishevelled.
Their father, Stefan, struggling with his own losses, tends to his apiary and tries to understand why his bees are disappearing. But after he discovers a car wreck and human remains on their farm, old secrets emerge to threaten the fragile family.
One day Tess’s teacher Jim encounters Evangeline by the wild Repentance River. Jim is in flight from his own troubles in Sydney, and Evangeline, raised in a mountain commune and bearing the scars of the fire that destroyed it, is a puzzle he longs to solve.
As the rainforest trees are felled and the lakes fill with run-off from the expanding mines, Tess watches the landscape of her family undergo shifts of its own. A storm is coming and the Müllers are in its path. Sometimes we must confront what has been lost so that we can know the solace of being found. The World Without Us is a beautifully told story of secrets and survival, family and community, loss and renewal.
About the author:
Mireille Juchau is the author of three novels. Her third, The World Without Us (Bloomsbury Australia 2015, US and UK 2016) won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Burning In (Giramondo, 2007) was shortlisted for the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Nita B. Kibble Award. Mireille’s first novel, Machines for Feeling (2001) was shortlisted for the 1999 Vogel/Australian Literary Award. Mireille’s short fiction, plays, criticism and essays are published internationally and in Australia.
What the critics said:
“I want to [stress] Juchau’s achievement: the poise, wit, sensitivity and also the complexity of her writing. The World Without Us is an impressive, memorable novel, the work of a writer in command of her craft.” Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald
“It is an emotionally charged and psychologically acute portrait of individuals who have suffered, one that never stoops to patronise the eccentricities of their community in which they are embedded. Her prose, too, is a marvel of balance: witty and sensual, self-aware but not jaded, and capable of making poetry from anything…” Geordie Williamson, The Australian
“From the opening pages of Mireille Juchau’s new novel, The World Without Us, we know we are in the hands of a poetic writer in control of language and ready to invest every sentence with resonant detail.” Susan Lever, Australian Book Review