Australia and Aotearoa (formerly New Zealand) have been ravaged by drought. The coastal plains have been inundated by rising sea levels. The ‘Whites’ of Australia, although impoverished by today’s standards, hang on to power through apartheid. They force the ‘Browns’, mostly refugee populations from drowned Pacific Islands, to labour on the little arable land that’s left.
We see this entirely plausible future from the point of view of a resistance movement, the Women’s Line, as they endure dangers to help the serfs held in the underground prisons escape to what we hope will be a better life for them in Aotearoa. (Pia and the Skyman takes up the story from the bases on Aotearoa.)
Sannah, “The Storyteller”, belongs to the Women’s Line. When a light skinned stranger calling himself Kaire arrives at her dome she must consider whether he is a spy. The twin mysteries of Kaire’s origins and Sannah’s purpose in “storytelling” drive along the narrative in the first novel. Kaire’s background when revealed gives us another viewpoint of the conditions on the planet. But we have to wait until Pia and the Skyman to see if his seemingly higher moral ground is based in the end on any better construct of human possibility and endeavour.
As with all resistance movements, nobody quite knows who else is to be fully trusted. Missions are planned and after excruciating buildups of tension go wrong in some way. We have escapes by desert and by sea, rescues, betrayals, brutalities and passions. Yet Parritt’s low key writing makes this stark way of life seem almost normalised, which makes it all the more disturbing; and the wreckage of not just the planet but of humanity springs out at us.
Parritt writes on her website –
“I want readers to grasp what is happening not only in contemporary Australia, but throughout the world with regard to refugees and the ongoing environmental degradation that poses increasing problems for humanity… By writing fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ‘ordinary’ people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable world.”
Sannah and the Pilgrim was Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2015.
Pia and the Skyman was commended for the Christina Stead Fiction Award 2016 in the National Literary Awards of The Fellowship of Australian Writers.
The Trilogy is published by Odyssey Books.
You can learn more about Sue Parritt and these books at her blog.
You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian,chocolate-fetcher and blunderings typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.