Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present, and takes in a wide range of locales - travelling from Sydney to Paris and Sri Lanka, with the reader being introduced to an intriguing cast of characters along the way
Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist, born in Sri Lanka but having lived in Australia since the age of 14. Her first novel was published in 1999, and she's grown in success since then - her second novel winning the Tasmania Pacific Prize, and her third and fourth novels nominated and winning several hugely impressive literary awards. A former editor for travel guide company Lonely Planet, de Kretser clearly loves to learn about different countries and cultures - as "The Life to Come" sends the reader between Australia, France and Sri Lanka, and described them with a startling effectiveness - making it a read that's transportive and immediate.
Pippa is the lead character here, and the one who links the themes and characters of the story together. She's interesting enough, but it's in the smaller characters where de Kretser's writing really shines - glimpses of fascinating people met in wonderfully described places. The book almost reads like a collection of novellas with an overarching theme - and that worked well for me, making it an easy read and enabling Kretser to introduce as many themes and concepts as she likes without them becoming too overbearing, as they perhaps could in one straightforward narrative. In fact, several historical moments touched upon were completely new to me, which added a new layer of interest - but at times I did feel that I perhaps missed moments of humour or satire due to my not being Australian - this is a book that deals with Australian culture and society head on, and as someone whose experience of Australia essentially extends to watching Neighbours as a child, I feel that there were aspects I didn't appreciate as much as I should have done.
However, this is a highly enjoyable read written by a skilled author - compelling, clever, and constantly encouraging the reader to question the decisions of the characters and the society they find themselves in - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.