This slow burning story crept up on me. I guess you know by now that I don’t write conventional book reviews. For starters I’m not going to give you a synopsis. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
The sadness and bewilderment Jessica suffers when her partner Matthew goes missing in the wilds of Tasmania gradually expands until she snaps. The atmosphere changes into an eerie, gothic-like tale of deception and fear. There are disturbing bits, there are gruesome bits and there are strong sex scenes, Krissy Kneen’s trademark.
Jessica lives in a flimsy wooden cottage at the edge of a seawall not far from the township of Southport. As I read on, I was unsure of William, the man who offers to help her, and doubly unsure of the coven of local women who offer strange advice and an even stranger solution. In the end I wanted Jessica to fight back and she did, the result is worth more than the price of admission to the spooky glow-worm caves.
At the time Matthew goes missing, Jessica, a scientist, is just finishing her PhD on glow-worms and works as a tour guide at the local cave complex, helping the tiny creatures to prosper. Winter Cave is her favourite and Winter Cave coldness, the surrounding dense forest, and feral smells pervade this book. Disturbingly, she is a good shot and needs to carry a gun to feel safe.
The character portrayals are well suited to their remote Tasmanian coastal surroundings, in particular old Marijam of Cockle Creek and her outlook on what appears to be a strange isolated life. She goes fishing for her seafood and compares commercial fishermen to the demise of small traders “Pick on a little bookstore, put a big mega-store across the road. Discounts on all the prices till the little fella dies, then corner the market” which she read about on the internet.
I queried some of the ‘things’ in the story and I was dissatisfied, or perhaps had my credulity stretched, with what transpires at the end. Like most animal-lovers, I sincerely hope the thylacine Tasmanian Tiger still exists. I also wondered if Jessica knew those caves as well as she thought.
My pet peeves are:
(1) More showing, less telling.
(2) Proof-reading misses, e.g. license interchanged with licence, rear-view mirror becomes rear-vision mirror. I’d go for Aussie spelling every time.
(3) Parts of the story felt like a filmscript not a literary description. There is a difference.
Krissy Kneen’s story reflects the time and effort she put into it, the sense of place is strong and at times overpowering. As a child, my parents and I visited the Jenolan Caves in New South Wales, Australia, and I have been claustrophobic ever since.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
NOTE Photographs depict general scenes and caves in Australia and Tasmania and are not related to places mentioned in the book. If you want an in-depth analysis I suggest reading ‘Not a Tiger at All: A Review of Krissy Kneen’s “Wintering”’ by Madeleine Laing of The Lifted Brow.