Andrew Cattanach finds plenty beneath the surface of local author Claire Varley’s debut The Bit in Between
In The Bit in Between, Claire Varley explores the trials and tribulations of the talented and tortured young writer Oliver, as his ambitious prospective writing retreat is turned upside down by the enigmatic Alison, who enters his world in the most spectacular, stomach churning of ways.
It’s always a treat when a book surprises you, but rarely are you surprised by what you’re surprised by in a book that surprises you. Surprising way to start a review?
Well, blame Claire Varley’s The Bit in Between. It’s not your average book.
You see, I knew it was going to be well written, even before I’d read Varley’s recent answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions (they’re pretty amazing). I had heard from some astute folks within the book industry that this was something special, and sure enough it was.
I also knew what to expect, with early noise about it being the Australian equivalent David Nicholl’s One Day being dead on. The writing is sharp, the characters witty and the story is alive in an assured, pacey manner that belies the author’s relative inexperience in long form fiction.
What surprised me about what surprised me about The Bit in Between was the changing trajectory of the novel, what it strode for, what story it told. Rarely do you finish a relatively mainstream novel, love it, yet still turn to someone and say, can you read this and tell me what you think? Is it a love story? Is it a story of loss? Is it cutting travel writing? Is it a meditation on self discovery? Is it a love letter to the writing life?
The truth is that it’s all these things and more. This is the first glimpse of an exciting new local talent, equal parts accessible, ambitious, fun and challenging.
One Day was good, and had its moments, although it never resonated with me like The Bit in Between did. Perhaps it’s the local flavour, perhaps it’s the nods to the art of writing, but I’ll take The Bit in Between every day.
by Claire Varley
Writing a love story is a lot easier than living one.
There are seven billion people in the world. This is the story of two of them.
After an unfortunate incident in an airport lounge involving an immovable customs officer, a full jar of sun-dried tomatoes, quite a lot of vomit, and the capricious hand of fate, Oliver meets Alison. In spite of this less than romantic start, Oliver falls in love with her.
Immediately. Inexplicably. Irrevocably.
With no other place to be, Alison follows Oliver to the Solomon Islands where he is planning to write his much-anticipated second novel. But as Oliver’s story begins to take shape, odd things start to happen and he senses there may be more hinging on his novel than the burden of expectation. As he gets deeper into the manuscript and Alison moves further away from him, Oliver finds himself clinging to a narrative that may not end with; happily ever after.