About the author
Jennifer Down is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Age, Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review and Literary Hub. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018. Our Magic Hour, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Her second book, Pulse Points, was the winner of the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction and the 2018 Steele Rudd Award for a Short Story Collection in the Queensland Literary Awards, and was shortlisted for a 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Award. Her third book is Bodies of Light.
About the book
A quiet, small-town existence. An unexpected Facebook message, jolting her back to the past. A history she’s reluctant to revisit: dark memories and unspoken trauma, warning knocks on bedroom walls, unfathomable loss.
She became a new person a long time ago. What happens when buried stories are dragged into the light?
This epic novel from the two-time Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year is a masterwork of tragedy and heartbreak—the story of a life in full. Sublimely wrought in devastating detail, Bodies of Light confirms Jennifer Down as one of the writers defining her generation.
Told with a kind of conversational intimacy – inviting the reader in, rationalising, second-guessing, accounting, defending, justifying – Jennifer Down inhabits the voice of a woman who has experienced a great deal of trauma, while evoking a history of south-east Melbourne from the 1970s into the present. Down shows restraint in detailing the traumatic circumstances of her protagonist Maggie Sullivan’s history – including foster homes, child sexual abuse and drug addiction – employing a language that moves between forensic accounting and a more lyrical, authorial register (“Picture me in that summer slick, newly fifteen and in search of a hollow to fall through”). Down’s portrayal of Maggie’s joys and pains evinces an impressive degree of verisimilitude and sensitivity, and many of the other characters – Judith, a middle-aged carer, and Ned, Maggie’s one-time boyfriend – are memorably drawn. This is an ambitious novel, spanning decades and locales, that sees Down demonstrate her imaginative range and take risks following the success of her previous two books. The result is a daring and compelling work, suffused with pathos and an impressive degree of empathic vulnerability.
“The third book from Jennifer Down is staggering in its scope, encompassing half a century of life lived by its magnetic and mystifying central character…” – Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, The Sydney Morning Herald
“Reading this book is like getting sucked up into a blanket, and when you emerge out of the cocoon, the world around you looks a bit different.” – Madeleine Gray, Sydney Review of Books
“It’s rare an author who can turn trauma into beauty.” – James Blackwell, Overland Literary Journal
Watch Jennifer Down discuss Bodies of Light on ‘Writers on Film’ via Melbourne Writers Festival
Listen to ‘At Home with Jennifer Down’ via The Garret: Writers on Writing
Read ‘When Writing is Your Job, Researching Trauma Can Be a Workplace Hazard’ by Jennifer Down in LitHub