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Reviews of Forecast: Turbulence


The Saturday Age, Melbourne, Australia (link)

The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne, Australia (link)

Australian Book Seller and Publisher (see below)

Launceston Examiner (see below)

Canberra Times (see below)

Janette Turner Hospital's anthology of stories gathers together astriking array of disturbed and disturbing characters....
The empathy, sadness, shock and occasional horror that I felt whilereading this collection is a testament to Turner Hospital's skill. The theme offamily turmoil particularly in the relationships between parents and childrenflows through the collection and is reflected in the central motif of stormyweather. Turner Hospital's writing is both sharp and intimate. She doesn't shyaway from brutality, and in this and the theme of individuals strugglingamong forces much larger than themselves it contains similarities to DuePreparations for the Plague.
- Australian Bookseller and Publisher (starred review)

AUSTRALIAN-born Turner Hospital has set this series of short storiesin both Australia and South Carolina, all in places where she has lived. Acommon thread throughout is the cast of compelling and enigmatic characters whose stories are just astroubled and uncertain as the turbulent and unpredictable weather that is usedas a metaphor throughout. Powerful stuff!
- Sue Stevenson, Launceston Examiner

Forecast: Turbulence is a carefully orchestrated suite of nine short stories, followedby a memoir, "Moon River-. The memoir is a lean, subtle piece about avisit Turner Hospital makes to Brisbane, where her elderly mother ishospitalised and, later, dies. As she contemplates her family's history, the"tangled ribbon" of the Brisbane River becomes the thread that -ties[her] childhood to [her] now". The river is variously brown and muddy, orgilded in the night's radiance, but the memoir itself remains limpid. Enteringthe darkness of mourning, she observes an evasion of darkness in Queensland,the Sunshine State: "we resist shadow. We don't believe in darkness."

From the publication of her first novel, The Ivory Swing, Brisbane-raisedTurner Hospital has countered that resistance. The Ivory Swing won Canada'sprestigious and lucrative Seal Award for best first novel for its taut, perceptiveexamination of the life of its Canadian protagonist as she moves with her youngfamily to India and struggles with a sense of being submerged in domesticity. From there, Turner Hospital's critically acclaimedeight novels and four collections of short stories have continued to exploreshadow and darkness, and the struggle to express that.

Forecast: Turbulence opens with the depiction of a child, Lachlan,hovering in the background of preparations for his sister's wedding, andwondering whether their estranged father will appear on the day. Lachlan isblind, but can read footsteps and interpret the vibrations of others' movements.He remembers his father's departing hug, and associates it with his freshlylaundered shirt, thereafter curling up in the laundry basket for solace, untilthe scents of bleach and steam and washing powder collide with his father's retreatingwords: "I'm drowning, mate, and I just can't breathe." Deluge,churning water, small boats in cyclones sensations and images are compressed in the boy's sorrow as he anticipates both his father'sarrival, and the possibility of his not appearing.

In "Salvage" there is a similar compression, through whichprotagonist Rufus, skipper of a whale-watching boat, translates whale song,which he feels as a caress and affirmation in the wake of the loss of hismother many years earlier. Turner Hospital works to find, in theliteral, the bones of metaphor. In this case, mute, outcast Rufusknows that the rumours that hum about him "multiply like krill" and thatcruel jokes move "stealthy as a harpoon". He feels, but refuses tocount the resulting "contusions" and hears entire phrases "sharpas fish hooks". There's a kind of flamboyance to this, as Turner Hospitalpresses the metaphorical from the literal, working and reworking with hercentral metaphors.

One of the darkest currents in the collection relates to thevulnerability of children. Early stories in the collection centre on bereft andbrutalised children, most horrifically in the almost-unbearable "WeatherMaps", in which two young teenage girls visit their mothers' boyfriends inprison, their conversation mapping the hidden cuts of their sharedself-harm and the abuse they suffer at the hands of these ersatz fathers.

"I know you think I'm neurotic," says Simon, the father oftwo small children to their mother Melanie at the start of another story,"Afterlife of a Stolen Child", "but they seem intolerablyfragile to me.- Turner Hospital fractures this story of the abduction of atoddler and its aftermath into the slivers of its several first-person narratives.Simon is an academic, prone to reflection. Or, as Turner Hospital puts it,"steamrollering on in a melancholy, academic way": "Harm seemsso arbitrary. So . . . malevolent. It terrifies me." Melanie is contrastinglycarefree, though there is something brittle in her insistence on lightness (andit is in her revelation of such ambiguities that Turner Hospital's power ismost evident). Warned by Simon of approaching rain, she replies that she's"always adored walking in the rain".And although she repeats this to her babies as they set off for theirwalk, she also expresses dislike of the neighbour: "I don't like that man. . . He watchesus."

The slivers of story make for sharp edges that probe the untellableas the theft of one of these children brings, "at a sickening heart-stoppingspeed", a slide into "free-fall into the void" for his parents.Woven around this atrocity are other kinds of darkness, as questions ofresponsibility emerge, along with even darker questions of the possibility ofothers finding pleasure in the crime.

The unknowability of the child's fate and the hopes, despair andfantasies that cling to it resonate in the title story, "Forecast: Turbulence",where a university student meets her estranged father. The story's twist underlinesagain the idea of the unknown as the darkest place, and the resistance of theunknown.

The pieces in the collection are connected by their transformationof turbulent weather conditions into markers of characters' emotional states. Thisis evident in the stories' titles and settings. Beneath these overarching similarities,more striking is the range of charactersTurner Hospital evokes, and her illumination of the ways sufferingis particular. It is in this tension between the ways that weather conditionssomething under mundane circumstances assumed to be common ground both express and mask the peculiar andprivate nature of human suffering, that the varieties of darkness in human lives become unsettlingly apparent.
- Felicity Plunket, Canberra Times