Thursday, May 15, 2008

Still Waters by Camilla Noli

Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7336-2250-2

First line: It is early evening. I am suckling my infant son.

A stay-at-home mother of two small children is feeling trapped in her life. As a successful career woman she was used to being in control, but now she feels that control slipping away. The demands of caring for her children leave her constantly exhausted. She resents the attention her husband gives to the children, particularly the eldest, Cassie, with whom he is especially close. She is determined to get her life - and her husband - back, to make things the way they used to be. And she is willing to sacrifice anyone in the pursuit of her aims.

The main character, who is never named, is one of the most unlikeable characters I’ve ever read. She is cold, distant, self-centred and manipulative. In fact I really didn’t like any of the characters, including her husband. This may in part be due to the fact that we only see them through the eyes of the narrator, who seems to be scornful of almost everyone else. Even her intimate relationship with her husband is based on power and control.

The themes of this book are meant to be controversial, to challenge our beliefs of what mothers and motherhood should be like. But this woman is more than an exhausted new mother at the end of her tether, she is a seriously disturbed psychopath. Anyone who stands in the way of her regaining the life she wants, is dealt with one way or the other.

Noli writes well and kept me turning the pages, almost against my will, but I was very uncomfortable spending so much time inside the head of this cold-blooded woman. This was a deeply disturbing book, and not a pleasant read.

Camilla Noli lives on the Central Coast of NSW with her husband and children. This is her first novel.

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