26 September 2023

In Moonland

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By Miles Allinson, Scribe, $29.99.

Miles Allinson’s second book, In Moonland is a melancholy dive into issues of parenthood and responsibility. Split over a number of different narrative styles and over three different time periods, Allinson focusses on three generations of one family, each member informed by and passing on trauma and experience through to their children.

In Moonland opens with Joe living with his wife and young child, Sylvie, but still obsessed with his childhood. Joe wants to solve the mystery of his father, who died, possibly by suicide, when Joe was a teenager. Joe’s relationship with his wife is already tenuous, and as he descends deeper into his quest into the past he starts to lose connection with his family. The mystery of Joe’s father, Vincent, goes back to the 1970s, where he spent time in India at an ashram run by the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The narrative goes there is two ways – one as a retelling of Vincent’s time at the ashram and another as a rambling monologue of his long time friend Abhi (formerly Kurt). The narrative then jumps forward to a climate change affected Australia and Joe’s daughter coming to find him at a dilapidated caravan park in the middle of nowhere.

Allinson gives readers plenty to chew on in In Moonland, both in the detail of the early days of the Bhagwan’s cult and the milieu of a future Australia. But more than that, this book is about its central relationships. Its main focus is on the impact of parents and their histories and actions on their children but also how those children respond. But Allinson is also interested in other relationships, in particular that of Vincent and Kurt who seem to form an instant bond that lasts through some fairly unpleasant experiences.

Allinson received plenty of plaudits, wins and shortlists for his first book, The Fever of Animals, including the Victorian Premier’s Award for unpublished manuscript (an award also picked over the years up by the likes of Jane Harper, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Christian White). In Moonland shows no sign of any problems with his second novel. It is richly peopled with flawed characters, thematically complex, narratively diverse and in each of its different sections delivers a great sense of time and place.

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