Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Book review: Tasmania’s isolated landscape propels plot in ‘The Survivors’
AP

Book review: Tasmania’s isolated landscape propels plot in ‘The Survivors’

"The Survivors" by Jane Harper; Flatiron.

"The Survivors" by Jane Harper; Flatiron (384 pages, $27.99). (Macmillan Publishers/TNS)

"The Survivors" by Jane Harper; Flatiron (384 pages, $27.99)

———

To most people, The Survivors is an iron monument to the 54 passengers and crew killed in a shipwreck more than a century ago just outside Evelyn Bay, Tasmania, south of Australia’s mainland. The memorial also is a testament to three families who are survivors of more recent losses. Two young men launching their fishing business were killed 12 years earlier when their catamaran wrecked during the worst storm the area ever had — the same day a 14-year-old girl vanished.

Elegantly plotted with an evocative look at the area, “The Survivors” is a strong tale about surviving the ravages of guilt, grief, economic downturns and the tensions that can erupt from living in a tight-knit, yet claustrophobic community. In each of her novels, Australian native Jane Harper explores a different part of the country, as unique a force as any character.

Sports physiotherapist Kieran Elliott, his girlfriend Mia Sum and their 3-month-old daughter, Audrey, have returned to Evelyn Bay from Sydney to help his mother pack up the family home before they move his dementia-afflicted father into a nursing home. Myriad emotions taint the visit — Kieran’s brother Finn was one of the men killed in that 12-year-old wreck, which may have been caused because Finn and his friend, Toby, were trying to rescue Kieran.

Kieran’s presence makes the memory of that wreck more prominent and mixed emotions swirl around his reunion with his parents and his friends. The feelings of guilt and grief are exacerbated when college student and budding artist Bronte Laidler is murdered.

Harper expertly illustrates the different landscapes of Australia, adding heft to her compelling plot and believable characters. In 2019's “The Lost Man,” Harper depicted an unforgiving, hardscrabble outback of Queensland. In “The Survivors,” the remote Evelyn Bay — population under 1,000 — depends on tourism that disappears when the weather changes.

“Somewhere invisible to the north lay mainland Australia, to the far south Antarctica. In front of them, nothing all the way to the horizon. Most of the younger residents leave for bigger cities, seeking education and better jobs. The insular community thrives on gossip and inuendo — ”whispers and hearsay and heated exclamations . . . bouncing from mouth to ear.” Yet, here, residents need each other more than in any city. “Places like this, they need to be tight-knit to work. Once the trust is broken, they’re stuffed,” says one character.

“The Survivors” is another example of Harper’s fine storytelling.

0
0
0
0
0

Stay up-to-date on what's happening

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Here are the bestsellers for the week that ended Saturday, April 3, compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide, powered by NPD BookScan © 2021 NPD Group. (Reprinted from Publishers Weekly, published by PWxyz LLC. © 2021, PWxyz LLC.) HARDCOVER FICTION 1. "The Red Book" by James Patterson and David Ellis (Little, Brown) Last ...

Here are the bestsellers for the week that ended Saturday, April 3, compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide, powered by NPD BookScan © 2020 NPD Group. (Reprinted from Publishers Weekly, published by PWxyz LLC. © 2020, PWxyz LLC.) HARDCOVER FICTION 1. The Red Book. Patterson/Ellis. Little, Brown 2. The Four Winds. ...

At least two powerful figures will be voting Amanda Gorman for president as soon as the 23-year-old inauguration poet is eligible in 2036. In a new Vogue interview with writer Doreen St. Felix, Gorman elaborated on her plan to campaign for the highest office in the United States — and revealed that she has already secured unofficial but key endorsements from former Secretary of State (and ...

Sheletta Brundidge was on national television Friday, talking about her new children's book. That same day, Lil Nas X, the singer she'd dedicated the book to, gave Satan a lap dance. By the end of the weekend, Lil Nas X was in a feud with the governor of South Dakota. He was selling 666 pairs of devil-themed sneakers, infused with human blood. He was offering pole dancing tips from his ...

Richard Thompson’s combination of skills as a songwriter and guitarist is unmatched. The musician’s career — from his rise with British folk-rock inventors Fairport Convention to his 1970s partnership with his wife Linda Thompson to three decades as a solo artist — stretches over 50 years. But Thompson’s new memoir, which was written with Scott Timberg, zeroes in on only the first eight. It’s ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News