How to Disappear is a novel by the prolific Western Australian author and poet, Rosanne Dingli. Rosanne was born in Malta. She came to Australia to live in 1982. Her rich writing reflects wide travel and a deep understanding of language. She is a story-teller who writes about art. About music. About other cultures.
How to Disappear is a novel in two parts. Each could stand alone. The first tells the story of a woman with a troubled past. The second is a journey of post-war escape undertaken by the woman’s father years earlier. Together the parts create a deliciously satisfying whole.
I was hooked in the first few paragraphs by a mysterious utterance by one of the characters:
‘Don’t cry.’ Her voice, sharp and impatient. Her hand waving a creased hankie. ‘Don’t cry. He isn’t your father.’
Rain crashing onto headstones, sliding off marble tombs tilting in the damp. Trodden weeds sodden so the smell would, ever after, raise a memory of this. ‘What?’
The reader, like the protagonist, soon learns about the family. The young woman’s father disappeared when her mother was newly pregnant after a brief affair. Soon afterwards, she met the man now dead. He assumed the role of the father of the baby. The older woman also has a son, Ian. But he, too, has disappeared. The older woman is depressed. Indolent.
Unable to uncover details about her birth father, the young woman creates a new identity for herself. And imagines an identity for her father. She names herself Selby Green. Selby Angela Maya Green, to be exact. She has her long hair cut. She assumes control of her mother’s household and her own life.
Plot twist follows plot twist, The tension is ongoing. Who will be the next to disappear?
Rosanne Dingli is a mistress of story-telling. Her use of language is idiosyncratic. Her skill as a poet is evident in every line. Short sentences tumble over each other. Descriptive passages flow:
‘A hand sweeping, indicating a living room filled with dancing dust motes on lances of light through dead curtains. Damp washing on a dead couch.’
This novel is entertaining. It is also deeply moving.
How to Disappear will soon be followed by Rosanne Dingli’s new novel, A Funeral in Fiesole. I’m looking forward to that!
This review is my sixth and final review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.
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