20 March 2020

Review: The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

The overriding impression I have after listening to the audiobook of The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie is an overwhelming admiration for her narration. Her voice, intonation and way of speaking is simply mesmerising. If you listen to a sample you'll see what I mean immediately.

The Erratics is a memoir about the Canadian Australian author's ageing parents and the struggle she and her sister face when her mother ends up in hospital with a broken hip. The author lives in Australia and unfortunately her mother lives in Canada and is a nasty piece of work. After a years-long estrangement, the sisters arrive at their parent's house in Alberta to find their father has been isolated and very poorly treated.

Despite the dysfunctional family setting, Laveau-Harvie manages to include breathtaking descriptions of the landscape and environment as well as scatter dark humour and incredible insight throughout the novel. I also enjoyed her writing.
".. because I do not carry a lot of my past. My sister carries it for me, her foot in the bear trap of our childhood unable to extricate herself no matter how hard she pulls." Chapter 16
Here's an example of her dark humour:
"My sister’s partner leaves the room at some point and strides down the wide hallway to inspect the elevator my mother takes to the lobby every morning to buy her newspapers and flowers. My sister’s partner is a handy person and wishes to inspect the elevator doors to see if there’s any way to rig them to open onto a void when my mother pushes the button." Chapter 20
And my favourite quote from the book:
“Scratch me and you get grief. It will well up surreptitiously and slip away down any declivity, perhaps undermining the foundations but keeping a low profile and trying not to inconvenience anybody.
Scratch my sister at your peril however, because you’ll get rage, a geyser of it, like hitting oil after drilling dry, hot rock for months and it suddenly, shockingly, plumes up into the sky, black and viscous, coating everything as it falls to earth.
Take care when you scratch.”
Having opened with so much praise for The Erratics, I need to disclose that it jumped around for me quite a lot and the end result felt a little jumbled. She cleverly addresses the reader now and then, but I often felt confused about which point in time we were in.

In addition, the reader was only ever given the tiniest of glimpses into the mistreatment the author, her sister and their father suffered at the hands of their mother. We are never privy to the full extent of the family estrangement or even why the author's mother was the way she was.

At the end of The Erratics I was left wanting more answers and disappointed about not getting them or being able to reach an understanding about the family dynamic. Perhaps Laveau-Harvie didn't have the answers herself, or perhaps it was too painful for her to commit them to paper.

Nevertheless, The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie won The Stella Prize in 2019 and was an enjoyable, yet unusual read.

Carpe Librum!

My Rating:
★ ★

Would you like to comment?

  1. Hm... enjoyable but not prize-worthy, it seems!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Davida, I just wanted more but was also very moved by her writing and narration.

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Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!