The Body in the Clouds

Ashley Hay

The Body in the Clouds
Allen & Unwin
1 September 2010

The Body in the Clouds

Ashley Hay

What if you looked up at just the right moment and saw - out of the corner of your eye - something unexpected? What if it was something so marvellous, so extraordinary, that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds tells the story of one extraordinary moment - a man falling from the sky, and surviving - and of three men who see it, in different ways and different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the late 1700s, a bridgeworker in the 1930s, an expatriate banker returning home in the early 21st century: all three are transformed by one magical event. All are searching for the same thing: how to understand what it means to call a place home, and how to be able to tell when you get there.

The Body in the Clouds is a luminous novel about the power of story: the stories that define who and where we are. And the stories we tell - and have told, and will tell - for the people we love.


The Body in the Clouds takes one moment – a man falling from the sky and surviving – and weaves three stories around it: William Dawes, an astronomer in the 1700s, arriving in Australia with the first European fleets; Dan Kopek, a twenty-first-century banker, returning to Australia after a family tragedy; and Ted Parker, a young man in the 1930s who dreams of working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

These three men are searching for a home, a place where they belong. Ashley Hay allows their stories to transcend time and space through intercepting narratives. Connections materialise and different events converge, giving importance to the central motif of the man who fell from the sky. There is a fragile sense of hope to these men’s stories and to Hay’s writing.

The prose is dreamy and wondering; it feels like there is a little magic lingering just beyond the next page. Pacing is slow, but interspersed with moments of startling clarity and subtle reflection on the cruelties and beauties of life. Hay’s desire to stress the importance of storytelling shines through – how our stories define who we are, where we belong, and who and what we hold dear.

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