Here Until August is the fifth book by internationally acclaimed, Melbourne based writer Josephine Rowe. Rowe’s latest work is a collection of short stories that provide us a glimpse into the lives of ten vastly different individuals in varying situations – a newlywed couple uncovering a new social dynamic between them, a man reacquainting himself with his deceased mother’s drowned town, a cab driver unexpectantly on a long-haul fare with a spruce. Despite their settings at different points geographically and socially, each is tethered together by the beautifully cyclical nature of their lives and the ever-continual process by which people and events enter and leave it.
Regardless of the varying scenarios and tales, Rowe is able to produce an amazing level of cohesion when it comes to the narrative voice, all of which share a strong sense of inward contemplation. Although each vignette does feel at times narrated by the same, omniscient individual who has dropped themselves into the lives of these stories. This is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly when said narration is as rich and as beautifully written as Rowe’s. Instead, the collection’s consistency of voice feels as if each character has tapped into a greater shared consciousness and implied ‘humanness’ to share their story.
Rowe’s work revels in the lyrical beauty of ordinary, minute details – bringing a romantic edge to the moments of our lives we may not recognise as significant. The book privileges emotion and self-reflection in the reader, in an almost primal way. As you unravel each narrator’s character, it as if you are uncovering something explosively intimate. Although the stories are short, the depth of which you come to understand the characters and empathize with them is more than can be said for some novels which are much longer in length. It has been a while since I’ve read fiction with characters who felt like such real people, that I could google the names in the book and probably find more information if I wanted to.
It’s hard not to be pulled along deeper into each story, guided through bursts of snuffed emotions, before abruptly – and sometimes unsatisfyingly (in the sense I didn’t want it to be over) – coming to the moments’ ends. My level of investment and desire to know more is a testament to the author’s ability to craft such concise, emotive work.
Rowe writes in such a poetic and aesthetic way without making the reader feel off-track or intimidated – a stunning throw-back to modernist stream of conscious writing, where the author and reader both run along the same garden path. Here Until August achieves this in a more accessible and enjoyable way.
Each vignette is elegantly crafted, touching and intimate, delivered in meaningful, bite-sized chunks. It is an easy yet fulfilling read for those particularly interested in exploring literary fiction. Here Until August is Australian literature on a global scale and should be treated like the modern classic it is.
Izabella Antoniou is a Sydney-based writer and cooking tutorial enthusiast with a background in marketing and content production. She is currently researching for her latest academic work centred around Bosnian ethno-religious practices. You can find her on Twitter @Izo_Ant.