Jane Abbott, Elegy, Random House, 29 August 2016, 363pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143781592
Gabe and Caitlin are stepbrother and sister. Six-year-old Michael who, along with his mother Barb, came to live with them and their father Jim. This is the beginning of the story, told in the first person from Caitlin’s viewpoint, in the first short chapter. We do not read this first-person narrative from Caitlin again until the second-last chapter of the book, almost ending this story, before finishing with a teaser for future stories of Michael and Caitlin.
Michael and Caitlin are the names given to these two characters in this part of their never ending lives, for they are reborn continuously, sometimes meeting, sometimes not. They are from Greek mythology, and you will need to read the book to find out their origins, for to give them away in this review would be to spoil the story. Caitlin always remembers where Michael never does, but they are meant to be together. However, like Romeo and Juliet, theirs is an unconventional love. Not illegal, but one that would not be accepted by their family, friends or members of the small community in which they live. The country community of Kincasey is an important setting for this novel as the many characteristics of a country community, both good and bad, are required. Almost everyone knows everyone else, the community is big enough to host a high school yet small enough for everyone to be invited to the same parties.
While Caitlin, Gabe and Michael are main characters, so are Jenny and Todd. Jenny has moved from Melbourne with her family. She did not want to move and is angry with her parents, but there is something they are not telling her. Todd Casey is the descendant of the town’s founders. Now owning very little, they once owned everything, and Casey “…grew up believing the world owed him plenty, and what it wouldn’t give he’d simply have to take” (p. 12-13). This includes Caitlin. He is in love with her, but she does not pay him any attention. Similarly, Jenny falls for Michael and is subsequently heart broken.
This book is hard to review without giving too much away. The plot is intricate and compelling. Abbott executes the narrative expertly and had me intrigued from the first chapter. The characterisation is strong, the dialogue realistic and the twists and reveals in the plot gripping. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for teen and older readers. It is one that will be revisited by many. Selectors for more conservative school libraries may need to be aware there are several scenes throughout that allude to the characters having sex.
Reviewed by Liz Derouet