Rated Reads

Disquiet

by Julia Leigh

Rated: Mild

The woman, who possesses a key to the gate, finds that a new security system prevents her from being able to gain entry, key notwithstanding. She and her two young children, each dragging suitcases, manage to penetrate the walls through a side gate, but end up bedraggled and battered in the process. The woman has been gone a long time, and her children are new additions. She is bruised all over, with a cast on a broken arm, which makes any routine task a challenge and a battle.

So begins Julia Leigh’s novella Disquiet, a short but packed little book. An extended family navigates its way through a week of upheaval and bottled emotions. Back at her old family home, Olivia battles depression and a desire to go back to her abusive husband; her brother and his wife arrive at the same time, and they each react very differently to the loss of their infant. Marcus tries to soothe his wife and does feel grief but takes surreptitious phone calls from his mistress. Sophie, who has tried to have a baby for years, takes the loss of the baby so seriously that she carts the dead infant around with her for a few days. After all, the rich can do what they want — at least for a little while.

The waves of quiet tension in the family home crest and crash and carry the characters in unexpected directions, and at last they land on quieter shores.

Disquiet keeps the reader spellbound, always wondering which direction the tormented souls will choose to take, wondering if the story will allow a happy or peaceful ending for any or all of them. But the end is its own little Rorschach test for the reader, an end but an open one. Julia Leigh writes a powerful tale with art and style.

Rated: Mild. The book has almost no language whatsoever, perhaps two or three mild uses. There are, however, two quite brief scenes involving sexual behavior or references.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 15 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Disquiet