The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy

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Courtesy of Scribe
Set partly in the Tasmanian
wilderness, The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy looks at what happens to people
when they are unable to move on from their past.
At the heart of the novel is
the Franklin Dam protest of 1982 and 1983 which saw plans to build a dam in the
Franklin and Gordon river area of Tasmania
for hydroelectricity halted due to a large public outcry and a lengthy protest
campaign.  Stopping the Franklin
dam project became one of Australia’s
biggest environmental victories to save the wilderness.
The World Beneath
The World Beneath features estranged middle-aged parents Rich and Sandy who were once environmental
activists present at the blockade.
Now twenty-five years on and
long parted ways, they have both settled into stable lives but are stuck in
1983 and spend most of their time reliving every moment of their time at the
blockade to anyone who will listen.  They
are both grappling to find anything that can measure up to that time or have
the same meaning for them.  The only
thing they have in common is their 15-year-old daughter Sophie.
Rich is a restless soul who
has been roaming the world since walking out on Sandy and Sophie as a baby. He
is obsessive about photography but spends his days editing mundane info-commercials
while likening himself to famous environmental photographer Peter Dombrovskis, reminiscing
on what could have been or what should have been. He is a sad case.
Sandy is an equally unlikeable character: an earth mother
and hippie who has also not moved on from her protest days, runs a bead
jewellery store at the local market and spends a lot of energy trying to do the
“right” thing keeping in with the standards of her “green” friends. She is continually
worried about what others think of her but has no time to see what is in front
of her – a very unhappy daughter.
Sophie is a Goth who is more
intelligent than her two parents put together. She is sharp, ruthless and rude;
sadly has an eating disorder; but grows on you as the novel progresses.
Premise to The
World Beneath
When Rich decides that he
wants to get to know his daughter Sophie, he invites her on a week-long trek
through the Tasmanian wilderness. His idea being he will win her heart through his
knowledge, photography and cool new designer trekking gear.
Although Sandy is not happy with the idea, she
realises that she needs to give her daughter the opportunity to spend time with
her father, which in turn may squash the ideal image that Sophie has of
The two set off on their
bonding trek and while at first enamoured by her father, his over-confidence
and inability to listen to the knowledge of others around him soon turns her
opinion and leads the two into problems. 
It is while on the trek the
novel comes alive and Kennedy uses her own personal experiences to paint a vivid
description of a stunning wilderness. Sophie also comes alive on this trek and
for me this is the highlight of the novel.
About Cate Kennedy
Cate Kennedy is well known
in the Australian literary world for her short stories and is the author of the
travel memoir Sing, and Don’t Cry,
and the poetry collections Joyflight
and Signs of Other Fires.
The World Beneath was winner of the People’s Choice Award for the NSW Premier’s Literary
Awards 2010; shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2010 Christina
Stead Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award 2010;
shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal for outstanding literary work; shortlisted
for the 2010 Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year
and shortlisted for the 2010 The Age Book of the Year Fiction Award.
The World Beneath (Scribe, Melbourne, 2009, ISBN:
9781921372964, 342 pages).

My rating: ★★★★

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