Melissa Lucashenko is one of the strongest and fiercest voices in contemporary First Nations literature. I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest novel, Edenglassie – kindly sent to me by my friends at UQP for review.
Edenglassie takes its title from a colonial name briefly given to a swathe of inner Brisbane, now called Newstead. The novel’s events take place in and around this area, across two timelines.
In 2024, Granny Eddie has to endure an extended hospital stay after a fall. While her firey granddaughter Winona clashes with the handsome Dr Johnny, Granny Eddie gets her kicks by putting the wind up a fellow patient, a journalist. It distracts her from the ancestors lingering in her room, anyway.
Back in 1855, First Nations people still outnumber the white colonial invaders – but not for long. Tensions are high, and against this turbulent backdrop, a Yugambeh man meets a Ngugi house-girl and falls in love. They face obstacles – their own Law which may prohibit the match, and the demands of the “settlers” who seem to think they own the place – but they love each other enough to make it work… until they can’t.
It takes a while for these two stories to come together, but when they do, it feels inevitable.
Lucashenko has called Edenglassie her “big book”, and I can see why. I have no doubt that another Miles Franklin nomination (and probable win) is in her future. Blak joy, tragedy, and righteous rage all play out in these pages, with the same wisecrack cheek that punctuated her previous book Too Much Lip.
I’ll admit to preferring the contemporary storyline to the historical one. Not only is it more resonant in the present moment, but it’s more entertaining (and I’m a simple creature). Still, I can appreciate Edenglassie as a whole, and I’m glad to see it joining the burgeoning canon of First Nations literature in this country.
Buy Edenglassie on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)