Monday, 8 October 2012


Greylands by Isobelle Carmody (Ford Street Publishing)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 978-1921665677
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

When I was a teenager, I remember reading Isobelle Carmody’s The Gathering. It’s darkness, and the messages it harboured, were so intense it has affected me until this very day. Greylands did not impact me any less and its potency still gnaws away as I write this review. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Greylands is such an important book that everyone should read it. (It is also a book that every writer should read, if not simply for Isobelle’s inspiring foreword!) While pegged as a young adult novel, this is a book whose metaphor and meaning can transcend any age barriers.

Greylands is Jack’s story, our teenage male protagonist who lives with his younger sister Ellen and his father David. Jack’s mother has recently died and his father has become an empty vessel who no longer feels anything and while Jack, too, is grieving the loss, his feelings are suppressed with the responsibility of his sister and his concern for his father. One night, after being awakened by a dream of his mother having wings on her back, Jack goes to the bathroom and is taunted by memories of the day his mother died. His troubled, sleepless faces peers back at him in the mirror but soon the mirror starts to ripple and he wakes up in a place devoid of colour, smell and feeling – the greylands.

In the greylands, Jack meets Alice – a young and elusive girl with wings on her back – who is carrying and protecting a secret bundle that glows. Drawn to her, his captivating and heart-racing journey through the foreboding greylands begins. Alice is not the only one he encounters on his journey through grief, pain, love, redemption and forgiveness – he is chased by savage wolvers, faces a laughing beast whose laughter has become more like sadness and a fun park that is wrought with confronting memories and truth. Jack becomes torn between the ‘real’ world and that of the greylands and is only able to leave the greylands once he uncovers the truth of his mother’s death, the disclosure of Alice’s identity and secret bundle and confronts his own grief once and for all.

Greylands is rich with metaphors about life, loss, grief, love and existence and equally rich with evocative language, a gripping story, captivating characters and a fully carved other world that Isobelle Carmody has truly mastered. It is unbelievably touching and profound. 

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