Looking for Alibrandi author Melina Marchetta takes to literary crime

by admin on July 22nd, 2019

filed under 苏州美甲美睫培训学校

Melina Marchetta surprises readers with a switch to literary crime. Photo: KIREN Australian author Melina Marchetta’s debut book, Looking for Alibrandi, was made into an award-winning Australian film. Photo: Supplied

There was a time when Melina Marchetta resented the success of her first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, a beloved Australian book for young adults.

Marchetta followed up 11 years later with Saving Francesca, alsoset in Sydney’s inner west, and for a while she felt typecast as a writer of “good stories about Italian girls in the suburbs”.

“I didn’t want to be that person,” she says. “I always used to say to my publisher, ‘If I’m allowed to do anything different I will come back to that world’, and to a certain degree I came back to that world with The Piper’s Son and I will come back to that world again. I don’t think I had to prove it to anyone else but I think I had to prove to myself that I could write something outside a personal experience.”

Turning to literary crime for her ninth book, Marchetta has thrown readers a brilliant curve ball. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil begins with the bombing in Calais of a busload of international students in which five die.

On board is the daughter of the suspended British chief inspector Bish Ortley, a broken man unable to move on since the accidental death of his 10-year-old son. He rushes to his daughter’s aid, only to discover a fellow survivor is the Australian-raised granddaughter of a terrorist responsible for killing 23 people 13 years earlier.

Ortley becomes the go-between for grieving families, the injured and British intelligence while drawn to the runaway Violette, her mother Noor, imprisoned on bomb-making charges, and uncle Jimmy Sarraf, exiled in France. Against the backdrop of growing anti-Muslim sentiment, Ortley must come to terms with his whitewashed heritage.

The book’s title comes from Shakespeare’s play Henry IV Part I, a favourite that Marchetta taught many times as an English teacher, before quitting her job in 2006 for the solitary pursuit of full-time writing.

“I wanted it to be a journey not just of a man who’s working out what the truth is, but also the truth inside of him, what draws him to a particular culture,” she says. “I have a line in one of my fantasy novels [The Lumatere Chronicles] which is ‘blood sings to blood’, and I sort of believe that in a way.”

The book’s starting point was Marchetta’s long obsession with wrongful conviction cases such as the Guildford Four, imprisoned for the IRA pub bombings in 1974 that killed five people. Those cases shared a false confession or part-confession made under duress. “They were all about race and class that was something that stuck in my head,” she says.

“I don’t think you could call it a wrongful conviction, but I always go back to the fact my grandfather was put in a camp during the war because Italy was on the German side of the war.

“This was a man who came out to this country in the 1920s, who had denounced Italy, who had taken citizenship and was promised everything entitled to a British citizen at the time and he was still put in a truck and taken two states away.”

Marchetta admires the British author Kate Atkinson, who subverted the stock crime novel to pursue truths about family, belonging, identity and the pull of the past – hallmarks of Alibrandi and Tell the Truth.

It’s a subject she has also given thought to as she raises her daughter, who came to her three years ago from foster care.

“I couldn’t pretend she didn’t have a past before me because that’s like pretending she didn’t exist for two years,” Marchetta says. “For me it’s important we talk about how her past is who she is because I don’t want her reaching my age and trying to work [it] out.”

Someone once pointed out that Marchetta, born in inner-west Marrickville, wrote well about intergenerational conflict between mothers and daughters, and she got cranky.

“I don’t think it is conflict, I think it is life,” she says. “I always think my mother and I got to know each other when I was an adult because I was such a reserved teenager and because my sisters have such strong, passionate personalities. I’m in the middle of two, and we are really close. It’s why I’ve never touched on writing about sisters because I can’t go there.”

She wonders if she chose to write the new book from a middle-aged male point-of-view so she didn’t have to hear, “That’s you”. “Because I’ve had to hear that over and over again with Alibrandi and Francesca.”

The irony is that aspects of Tell the Truth are heavily drawn from Marchetta’s life. The startling to wake at 3am. The dreams that haunt Ortley. “He wasn’t a stretch to me, he came known. I gave him my age, I gave him so many things that belong to me.

“When I was writing as a younger person I was writing about what it was like to be female working in a male environment or this type of character. Now I do feel as though it’s about what is it like to be human in a world where you are kind of challenged about what is right and wrong.”

Marchetta wrote Tell the Truth well before the Charlie Hebdo shooting but was editing the first chapters of the manuscript for her Australian and US publishers when the November 2015 attacks on Paris occurred.

“I actually wanted to put it down and not touch it because it made me feel guilty that I was writing fiction when the reality [was] happening. It almost felt to me as if I was cheapening everyone’s emotion.”

For a brief moment she thought to change the location from France but loved the idea of Jimmy Sarraf stranded across the Channel.

“It was a very biblical idea of Moses not getting to the promised land but seeing it from a distance. There are a few promised lands in this novel – I think Australia is the promised land for the LeBrac family.”

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta, Viking, $32.99

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.

Comments are closed.