Book Review: The Fragments by Toni Jordan

The Fragments…

About the Book:

From the award-winning, bestselling author of Addition and Nine Days, a superbly crafted and captivating literary mystery about a lost book and a secret love.

Inga Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book—and a literary mystery that has captivated generations of readers.

Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman. The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine.

Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.

Longlisted, Indie Book Awards for Fiction, 2019

My Thoughts:

And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them.
And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them, the seconds spent on this earth and the number of them that truly mattered.

And so begins the mystery of The Fragments, when two women exchange pleasantries outside an exhibition, sharing a quote from one of the fragments left over from a long ago burnt manuscript they have both just seen, yet one woman expands on the quote, completing it, before disappearing into a taxi. How is that possible? Who is she? And why do the words she spoke seem genuine?

The sentence in the glass case reads: And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them
There is nothing else. Nowhere can she read the seconds spent on this earth and the number of them that truly mattered. There is only the black rimmed space burnt by the fire that killed Inga Karlson and destroyed every copy of The Days, The Minutes, her long-awaited second novel, almost fifty years ago.

I adored this novel, a literary mystery, with it’s understated elegance and carefully rendered atmosphere. Told as a dual narrative through the eyes of two women: Cadence in Brisbane, 1986; Rachel, first in Pennsylvania and then later, in 1930s New York; both young and on the cusp of so much. This story appears on the surface to gently unfold, but it’s truly gripping, right from the first page through to the last. The mystery is meticulously planned, I really didn’t see the twist until the moment it occurred. The writing is just sublime, so much is conveyed through gesture and connection, the author not relying on dialogue alone to drive the narrative forward. This is a novel to savour, for much is inferred rather than explained. It’s such a delight to read. Brisbane is whimsically depicted as it was in the mid-1980s, still a big country town, with it’s cloying heat, rotting mangoes, hovering fruit flies, and blooming jacarandas. The atmosphere of this novel was truly transporting.

I loved both of the main characters, Cadence and Rachel, as well as Jamie and Inga. Buried in the mystery of the fragments is a hidden love story, one so achingly beautiful, that it wasn’t until after I finished the last page that I fully appreciated all the author had inferred in those final passages. For Cadence, unravelling the mystery of the fragments provides the impetuous for her to shrug off her past and forge a new path; her ending is coloured with hope and I was left feeling joyous at what awaited her. There is much explored within the pages of this novel, both social and political, and with deep meaning. The Fragments is a little gem, one of those rare novels you want to start all over again the minute you’ve finished. A book about a book – it doesn’t get any more perfect than that! Highly recommended to lovers of literature and those who appreciate historical fiction with ambience.

In the years to come, even after everything she’ll achieve and everything she’ll attain, she’ll remember tonight with a knot of anguish. Looking up and wondering if there is any sight so beautiful and brutal as the night sky of your hometown.


Thanks is extended to Text Publishing via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Fragments for review.

About the Author:

Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller Addition was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award and was named in Kirkus Review’s top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the Voss Literary Prize 2017 and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. Toni’s latest book is the literary mystery The Fragments. She lives in Melbourne.

The Fragments
Published by Text Publishing
Released on 29th October 2018

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Fragments by Toni Jordan

  1. Pingback: The Fragments, by Toni Jordan | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

    • How many more Stella books do you have left?
      After I read this one, I couldn’t help but wonder why it hadn’t made the longlist, although I know nothing about how books even get onto the longlist and maybe it wasn’t even put forward by the publisher. But it was that kind of read, if you know what I mean!


  2. Pingback: #BookBingo – Round 16 | Theresa Smith Writes

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