Tag Archives: Brisbane

It’s a cracker – Steeplechase by Krissy Kneen

25 Apr

 

steeplechaseSteeplechase is Brisbane author, Krissy Kneen’s first novel, and her first non-erotic work. Her previous books are a memoir, Affection and Triptych, a collection of erotic stories.

Bec Reich is a forty-year-old lecturer in art, whose own art career has stalled. Bec is getting over surgery when her sister Emily, a famous artist who she hasn’t spoken to for twenty-three years, calls and invites her to the launch of her new show in Beijing. Emily is also famous for being schizophrenic and Bec, too, hints at mental illness in her past. Emily’s call awakens Bec’s memories of their strange childhood and the games, fantasies and delusions which they shared.

 

Cut off from social contact, the sisters are brought up by their grandmother, a woman who locks all the doors and windows every night and forbids them to venture off the family property. The family live in small-town Queensland where the townsfolk assume they are part of a strange religious group.

 

As the story alternates between the past and the present, the reader slowly learns more about the sisters. Bec adores her older sister and would do anything to be included in her games. Emily is horse-mad and initiates a game of steeplechase where she forces Bec to play the part of the horse. ‘I am a bad horse, a lazy horse, a slow horse, and I take the whipping silently because it is true. I am a bad horse. I am not any kind of horse at all,’ says Bec. I enjoyed the contrast between the voices of the teenage Bec and the older Bec. A sub-plot relating to Bec’s relationship with a much-younger student is also well-drawn.

 

This story was so skilfully told so that I never knew quite which parts were reality and which parts delusion. Reading it was like putting together a puzzle. Kneen’s writing is both simple and evocative, creating a sense of lurking threat behind everyday actions. A scene where Bec listens to a phone’s ring tone, imagining she can hear someone breathing is particularly chilling. And what about Raphael, the lover the sisters shared, did he really exist?  As Bec joins Emily in Beijing, the story races towards a startling and satisfying conclusion.

Steeplechase is both beautifully written and a page-turner that provides insight into madness and art. I couldn’t put it down.

This is my third review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

For those in the Byron Bay area, Krissy Kneen will be in conversation at the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre on the 10th of May and running a workshop on erotic writing on the 11th of May. Details here

PR queen takes a dive

15 Dec

 With only two weeks until Liar Bird is published, I thought I’d share another short extract. If you missed the last one, it is here. City PR Queen, Cassandra, has taken a dive and is considering her options…

I needed to get away for a while; act like it was my choice, return refreshed, revitalised and triumphant. What I needed was another job – some place they’d never heard of Cassandra Daley and her astroturf. Somewhere Sydney people would never find me.

Ant was still sitting on the end of the bed, doggy eyes following my every move.

“For Chrissakes Ant, stop watching me. Get me a coffee…and a fresh muffin from the bakery. Will you, snooks?” That would keep him out of my hair for a bit.

As he left the room I grabbed Alice from my bedside table. ‘You look a little shy, let me introduce you to that leg of mutton,’ said the Red Queen.

Ha.  I would be lucky to be introduced even to a leg of mutton if I stuck around here. A pathetic, friendless loser, that’s what I’d be.

I opened the jobs section. There were lots of PR jobs, but all in Sydney. I kept flicking, there at the end was a small box – Public Relations specialist for wildlife agency, north coast – Beechville.

Beechville? I shuddered. There were good parts to the north coast. Come to think of it, one good part – Byron Bay. Byron was tres chic – most of Balmain was there in summer. You had no trouble getting any sort of latte in Byron. Somehow I suspected Beechville wasn’t like that. It sounded like the kind of place where Instant Roast and teabags were the order of the day.

Getting out of bed, I pulled my road atlas from the shelf. There it was; Beechville – a small dot near the Queensland border. Why on earth would they need a public relations specialist there? What could happen in a country town like that? Something about that appealed though. I’d had enough action for the time being.

I pictured myself in a rocking chair on a wide verandah – maybe strolling in to work to have my photo taken with a koala or on a rainforest walkway…

At least it wasn’t too far from civilisation – if you could call Surfers Paradise and Brisbane civilised. Anything north of Hornsby was the wilderness as far as I was concerned, but, given the circumstances, you take what you can get. It would be quiet, boring maybe, but quiet. I’d have time to plan my comeback; recuperate my energies for a big re-entry.

Wazza would take me back; he’d never find anyone else as good as me. No, stuff Wazza, I’d set up in opposition to him. I might find my reputation to be an asset; in fact I’m sure I would – once people had the chance to reflect on it. It showed I’d go the extra mile. Clients liked that.

The good part was, Beechville was north coast and Rainforest Runaway was south coast. Separation of these two places could only be beneficial.

The door clicked as Anthony let himself back in. Ripping out the ad, I placed it in my top drawer.

Beechville. I felt half-asleep at the thought of it…

Hope you enjoyed that. And for anyone who happens to find that too much ‘Liar Bird’ is never enough – here’s a link to the Varuna Blog where I read a couple of pages.