Monday 16 January 2017

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down @jenniferdown @text_publishing

All night Audrey woke again and again, and every so often Nick would be awake, too, and their bodies would shift into new shapes, and once Nick reached for her as if in a panic, and once Audrey thumped to the kitchen half-awake and stuck her head under the tap to drink, and once she turned over to face Nick, who was open-eyed, and they began to kiss in a dream, bodies just coming to, and she saw the dull shadows from the streetlights pass over his face as he came, and he covered her body with his and she felt his breath in her hair, and they held each other, and the whole time they never said a thing. 

Audrey, Katy and Adam have been friends since high school - a decade of sneaky cigarettes, drunken misadventures on Melbourne backstreets, heart-to-hearts, in-jokes. 

But now Katy has gone. And without her, Audrey is thrown off balance: everything she thought she knew, everything she believed was true, is bent out of shape. 

Audrey's family - her neurotic mother, her wayward teenage brother, her uptight suburban sister - are likely to fall apart. Her boyfriend, Nick, tries to hold their relationship together. And Audrey, caught in the middle, needs to find a reason to keep going when everything around her suddenly seems wrong. 

Evocative and exquisitely written, OUR MAGIC HOUR is a story of love, loss and discovery. Jennifer Down's remarkable debut novel captures that moment when being young and invincible gives way to being open and vulnerable, when one terrible act changes a life forever.

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down was published by Text Publishing in paperback on 29 December 2016 and is the author's debut novel.

Our Magic Hour is a fairly short novel at just under 300 pages, it flows beautifully and the writing transports the reader to the Australian cities of Melbourne and Sydney, yet it has taken me quite a while to finish the book. Not because I didn't like it, not at all. No, it's the sort of story that packs such an emotional punch that time out is needed every now again. To digest and to recover.

This story looks at the remains of a friendship. Once there were three, and now only two. Audrey, Adam and Katy were always friends, they grew together and they learned together. Katy killed herself and Audrey's whole world was knocked sideways. This is her story, her thoughts and how she copes .... or doesn't.

Audrey has a lot to deal with, it could be asked if the author has included too many issues and themes into her story, but despite this question, there is no doubt that she deals with all of them with a gentle sensitivity, and a clear sense of authority.

Grief, pain, loss and loneliness consume this story, and the reader. I'm probably older than the target audience and have not visited Australia, but the author's sharp writing will appeal to readers who appreciate fine storytelling, with depth and emotion.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Jennifer Down was born in 1990. Our Magic Hour was shortlisted for the 2014 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an un-published manuscript.
Her work has appeared in the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review, ABC's The Drum and Blue Mesa Review.
She writes a monthly column on words and language for Overland.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @jenniferdown


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