Koch chose to write this book about secrecy in several voices and some are stronger than others. Vincent, obsessed with secrecy from childhood, speaks in first person through his diary entries and these are used to set the scene for childhood in Hobart, Tasmania and again near the end of this too-long book.
Brad, through whose eyes we see most of the story, refers to Vincent's old-fashioned style of speech and writing as he reads the diaries. I found it prissy.
I enjoyed the part of the book set in China most; the pace picked up and held in this section while it was slow to get goingand flagged again in the last third of the book.
Koch writes place brilliantly, whether isolated suburban Hobart, Beijing or Canberra in the 1980s.
The plot of the intertwining narratives was interesting enough to hold me right to the end, but I found it hard going at times and thought it would benefit from being about 100 pages shorter than its 432.
I can see why it was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award (Australia's major literary prize) and I can also see why it didn't win.
Lisa Hill has written an excellent review with plot summary on anzlitlovers.com, a site I highly recommend for readers interested in Australian and New Zealand lit.
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