Book reviews

Bruny by Heather Rose

Bruny is a cracking read by Australian author Heather Rose. I wasn’t very far into this political thriller before I felt as if I couldn’t put the book down. Being kept exceptionally busy by my work when I wanted to read it was a torment.

The story is set in the near-future on Bruny Island off the coast of Hobart in Tasmania. When a six-lane bridge that the Tasmanian government was building from the mainland to Bruny Island with Chinese funding was bombed by an unknown perpetrator, the Tasmanian Premier, JC Coleman asked his twin sister Astrid, a mediator for the UN, to come home from New York to negotiate a truce between the various factions who were either for or against the bridge. To further complicate the Coleman family’s dynamics, Astrid and JC’s half-sister Maxine was the leader of the Opposition party.

Astrid’s first question was to learn why JC’s government were building a bridge to Bruny Island at all. Although the island’s population swelled during holiday times, the island only had around 600 permanent residents and was already well served by a ferry. Astrid met with various groups on and off the island, from birdwatchers to Friends of Bruny, business owners, as well as sea-changers and climate-changers who had more recently moved to the island from the Australian mainland. She also met with politicians from all sides of state and federal politics and with the bridge builders. Everyone had a different opinion about the bridge and the future of the island.

After the bridge was bombed JC brought in a contingent of Chinese workers to work on it with the aim of having the bridge completed in time for the next State Election, despite the use of Chinese labour being unpopular with his voters. Astrid was convinced by this time that there was a much bigger picture that she was missing although she continued to work to keep all parties calm while carrying out her investigations.

The use of Chinese capital to build this fictitious bridge was topical with so much current scrutiny on Australian states partnering with China in belt and road initiatives.

I liked the family dynamics in the story. Despite being on opposite sides of politics the Coleman family were generally loving and were genuinely trying to do their best for Tasmania in their political roles. The sibling’s father, who had also been a successful Tasmanian politician until his retirement, had recently had a stroke when the story began and was only able to communicate using Shakespearean quotes, while their mother, a deeply unpleasant woman, was undergoing cancer treatment. There were also a younger generation of the family who were uninvolved in the political side of the plot although they added to the personal story.

Astrid was a terrific lead character. She was middle aged with grown-up children, divorced, extremely successful in her career and very, very clever. There was a hint of romance for her with one of the more down-to-earth characters which I liked too. This was a very full story with political intrigue, family drama, conspiracies and huge problems for Tasmania, Australia and the rest of the world, with climate change driving everything. When I finally got to the plot’s reveal, I was genuinely shocked.

Bruny has a very strong sense of place. The story made it clear that Tasmanians see themselves as Tasmanians first and Australians second. The story also raised questions about how Australians from the mainland see Tasmania.

I enjoyed Bruny enormously and am very keen to read further novels by this author.

My purchase of Bruny by Heather Rose goes towards fulfilling my New Year’s resolution to buy a book by an Australian author during each month of 2020 (August).

Comments on: "Bruny by Heather Rose" (16)

  1. Sounds great, so naturally it’s not available over here! However, I’ve added it to my wishlist on Amazon since presumably they’ll do a UK release at some point. I do like a bit of political shenanigans… 😀

  2. I hope you are able to get Bruny. I loved it. I’ve also been checking out photos of Bruny Island’s beaches and beautiful landscapes ever since reading this.

  3. This sounds brilliant but I see we have to wait in the UK. As well as the plot I’m very interested in reading about Tasmania, maybe it’ll get me started on the round the world challenge I keep meaning to do!

  4. Just had a google and it looks gorgeous! It also looks very like the north of Scotland, which isn’t something I’d have expected at all. Do they get lots of rain and colder weather?

  5. A round the world challenge sounds fun and since you to start somewhere, why not Tassie?

  6. Oh, yes, lots of cold, wet, windy weather! There are more photos taken on sunny days, though.

  7. Oh, it wasn’t that the photos I found were of wet days – just that the landscape looked so like Scotland I wondered if it was because we have the same weather. Sounds like we do!

  8. I’m so sorry I missed this when you posted this Rose. But, I think you know I am struggling even more than before with keeping up with my blogs.

    I’m glad you chose this book for your self-challenge, and am glad you liked it. I’ve only read one other Heather Rose book, but I would like to read more. Her Butterfly man – I think her first – sounds interesting. Her museum of modern love though is an excellent book.

  9. You’ve had a difficult year, Sue. I’m glad to see you here and always appreciate your comments (and very often learn something from them too!) but don’t want you to run yourself ragged to keep up. Sometimes we all need a rest from the usual routines, an emotional break.
    I’m keen to read more Heather Rose books, too and think you will enjoy Bruny if and when you get to it.
    Take care of yourself, Rose

  10. Thanks Rose, I know you understand, but still, I should have seen this earlier than I did.

    BTW I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. I have read and posted on Bruny! I did enjoy it – not as much as The museum of modern love, but I found it really intriguing to think about what she was doing and why.

  11. I’m off to read your review of Bruny, although I have a feeling I would have read it when you first posted it.

  12. You may have, but I know it’s hard to remember such things when you haven’t read the book yourself.

  13. True.
    I’m adding Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist to my list as your comments about that have intrigued me.

  14. Ha, I’ll be interested to see what you think. If you get to read it.

  15. I will eventually…

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