Wood Green by Sean Rabin

woodgreenThe second of Dodo Ink’s launch titles is Wood Green by Sean Rabin, a book which was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction for 2016.

‘Michael felt instinctively that this was his last chance. If not here and now, then when exactly was he going to write the story that was so persistent in his imagination?’

I was intrigued about this book as it tells the story of an aspiring writer named Michael who travels to the small village of Wood Green in Tasmania. He is bought to Wood Green to become an assistant to Lucian Clarke, a reclusive author. During his employment Michael hopes to find out more about the life and works of Lucian, a writer whom he admires, as well as hoping to find inspiration for his own writing. As he settles into life and work in Wood Green he meets the fascinating array of people who make up this small community, and we get to see the way these people interact with one and other, and the way their lives and stories are intertwined. And as Michael starts to build up a collection of facts on Lucian’s life for the purpose of an autobiography, events descend into the strange as Lucian’s behaviour becomes more erratic, and life for Michael subsequently descends into the surreal.

‘Those rough edges and awkward rhythms are there for a reason. It’s called character – my character.’

As the novel progresses, we begin to see that the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. As Michael learns more about Lucian’s life, we see how the two men’s lives begin to almost merge together and it was interesting to see this metamorphosis. I also enjoyed Rabin’s portrayal of the surrounding community, and how so few people hold so many secrets, hopes and desires. This provided a fascinating glimpse into the lives and loves of ordinary people, and the complexities of their character. Its focus on the creation of fiction also provided some interesting thoughts on the writing process, providing insight on the questions a writer asks of themselves and what stories they want to tell, the challenges and inspirations. And as the lives of Michael, Lucian and the Wood Green residents collide, the story builds up to a bizarre conclusion.

‘By all means publish a book. Publish two. But it won’t necessarily make you a writer. You have to forget everything you know. Or think you know. And start to feel around for it. Listen. Smell. They’re not meant to be just words on the page. They’re meant to be whispers. Shouts. Songs.’

Wood Green is an interesting, enjoyable story about the lives of two writers, their reality, and their fiction. It is an unsettling, strange tale of realism and the surreal.

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