Authentic is the word that springs to mind as I flip the final page of Pink Mountain on Locust Island. Everything about this book felt authentic, from the teenage character and her voice to the world that Jamie builds around her. A worthy candidate on the Stella Prize shortlist for sure!
Pink Mountain was a surprise and an utter delight. The story of Monk is told to us in a slightly unusual structure, through a string of vignettes. My first impression was that I was going to struggle through this over-literary and confusing structure, but nothing could be further from the truth. The vignettes sweep smoothly through the novel and reading each scene felt like I was gliding through Monk’s world. A very beautiful and perfect way to tell this story. Jamie makes a potentially difficult and problematic narrative structure seem unforced and effortless, a credit to her writing prowess. Having now read the full story I can’t imagine reading it in any other way and finding it equally charming and absorbing.
‘A very beautiful and perfect way to tell this story.’
Besides the fantastic structure, the voice is the champion of this novel. It is sharp and fully realised, flowing naturally off the page. It is this strong voice that carries through each scene and keeps the reader grounded through the choppy structure. I felt instantly connected to Monk and her story, a true credit to the voice as there were few cultural and life experiences I could relate to.
The voice is lyrical, reading like poetry, with Jamie dropping minute but powerful details into scenes to build the characters and world. I have no doubt there are details and layers of meaning that I have missed on my first read, that I look forward to discovering in my second, third, fourth and fifth readings of this novel. Again, this seems effortlessly achieved, while any writer here will know that this is rarely effortless, especially in something this tightly crafted.
My only criticism of Pink Mountain is that there were a few sentences and images that didn’t quite fit in their scenes. These were a small line here and there, and were rarely found, but were jarring when they popped up, pulling me out of the flow of the lyrical prose. They felt like remainders of past drafts, elements that once linked to a theme or scene that has since been chopped or edited away.
That being said, I was amazed at how vividly the characters and world are developed in this vignette structure. Each character is complex, with their own stories, desires and contributions to the novel. There is not one character I didn’t like reading about. While there is a limited cast of focal characters, even the peripheral characters felt three-dimensional and thoughtfully considered. The nuances Jamie embeds into each feel careful, and as I’ve mentioned, authentic. They all felt real!
‘There is not one character I didn’t like reading about.’
My compliments must also go to the team at Brow Books. Not only does Pink Mountain read beautifully, but it looks beautiful. The cover is stunning and the internals were equally pleasing. The layout looks excellent and pairs well with the vignette structure. With the short scenes, some not even reaching the bottom of the page, there is plenty of white space on the page which perfectly highlights the writing. It was a genuinely lovely book to look at and admire as a visual object.
I can’t stop singing this book praises. It was everything it was hyped to be and I can’t wait to see what extra details I pick up on my multiple re-reads.
Title: Pink Mountain On Locust Island
Authors: Jamie Marina Lau
Publisher: Brow Books
Extent: 234 pp.
Read If You Like: Dept of Speculation, Axiomatic, The Erratics