INTRODUCTION TO READING AT BOOKTIQUE 18 APRIL 2010
'Child of the Twilight'
Back in the nineties I published a non-fiction book about the indigenous children of the stolen generations. This new novel also has ‘child’ in the title, and these books both reflect my lifelong interest in the subject of the child. Children are the focus of a lot of my fiction. I think that children signify hope, all that is good and beautiful. It is easy to become sentimental about children and childhood, and I probably often do.
'Child of the Twilight' begins by considering the centrality of the child in the Christian religion – a miraculous wooden statue of Baby Jesus is stolen from a church in Rome. It goes on to explore how children are conceived – in the ordinary old fashioned way, and by modern methods of IVF. Early in the book there is a little scene between one of the main characters and his twin sister when they were small. What the little girl says to her brother sums up the simplicity and truthfulness of a child’s view of the world.
‘They had been taken to visit an ancient uncle. In his garden there was a cherry tree and a grape vine. Roland and Eleena were sitting together on a low stone wall in the sun, each with a glass of red fizzy drink. Eleena turned to Roland and she said: This is nice, Rolly, this is nice. And he felt she meant everything – not just the drink, everything – the sun, the stone wall, the cherry tree, the grapevine, the sky – everything. Life, she said to him, was nice. This is nice, Rolly. Life is nice.’
I will read two short pieces from the novel. The first bit is set in Rome in 1994 and is about the theft of the statue. The second is in Melbourne in 2001 and is about a pregnant schoolgirl. The two pieces are linked by the presence in both of the young Franciscan priest who is the Roland I just read about. Actually in the second piece I don’t think the priest gets a mention, but he is there – believe me.