The Light on the Water…
Recently divorced and trying to make sense of her new life, Anne takes her daughter Aida on an overnight bushwalk in the moody wilderness of Wilsons Promontory. In a split second, Aida disappears and a frantic Anne scrambles for help. Some of the emergency trackers who search for Aida already doubt Anne’s story.
Nearly two years later and still tormented by remorse and grief, Anne is charged with her daughter’s murder. Witnesses have come forward, offering evidence which points to her guilt. She is stalked by the media and shunned by friends, former colleagues and neighbours.
On bail and awaiting trial, Anne works to reconstruct her last hours with Aida. She remembers the sun high in the sky, the bush noisy with insects, and her own anxiety, as oppressive as the heat haze.
A superbly written and conceived literary work about the best and the worst aspects of family life, this story asks difficult questions about society, the media, and our rush to judgement. This is a thoughtful, provocative and unflinching novel in the tradition of Helen Garner, Joan London and Charlotte Wood.
The Light on the Water was such a good read, from start to finish. I found myself dwelling on the subject matter quite incessantly throughout and for a good while after too. Olga’s style of writing is very engaging and quite honest in its portrayal of the inner workings of each character.
Despite this story being told entirely from Anna’s perspective, Olga skillfully allows the reader to see exactly who each of the other characters are, not only with regard to their relationship with Anna, but who they are as a separate person.
Olga’s portrayal of society within the framework of the accusation levelled against Anna is so entirely accurate. One only needs to reference real cases in Australia from the last 50 years to see evidence of this. Anna’s ongoing feelings of guilt over ‘losing her child’ and ‘being a bad mother’ were (and are) perpetuated by the expectations of a society that is unwilling to accept that sometimes children get lost. They get hurt. They even die. And sometimes, it’s nobody’s fault. But there is a demand that it be somebody’s, and who better to blame than that child’s mother.
There are moments encountered within this novel that pulled me up; I simply stopped reading and just sat there, contemplating the words, the ideas, and how I feel myself about what happened to this family. It’s an incredible novel and a great pick as a bookclub read, as there is no shortage of things to discuss with this one.