Book Review: Heart of the Grass Tree

Adelaide author Molly Murn doesn’t shy away from the darker side of Kangaroo Island’s history in her debut novel.

From the opening descriptions of the purest strain of Ligurian bees on Kangaroo Island (KI), Murn’s novel promises a poetic narrative, relishing in sensuality and informed by historical research. And it delivers.

But this exquisite dreaminess in describing both place and the emotionally intricate stories around Nell (recently deceased), her children and granddaughter are also contrasted with shocks of violence between blackfellas and whitefellas, reminiscent of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River.

It is a fitting way to write about Australia’s violent history, from which South Australia is far exempt from (such as the abduction of Indigenous women by whalers on KI). Murn confronts this uncomfortable history with honesty, sensitivity and skill, just as her novel’s contemporary characters must confront their own personal histories.

Molly Murn will appear at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2019

Author: Molly Murn
Publisher: Vintage

Heart of the Grass Tree book cover, Molly Murn

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