Between a Wolf and a Dog

Georgia Blain

Between a Wolf and a Dog
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Between a Wolf and a Dog

Georgia Blain

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Writing for Fiction 2017

Ester is a family therapist with an appointment book that catalogues the woes of the middle class. She spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships are tense and frayed. Estranged from both her sister, April, and her ex-husband, Lawrence, Ester wants to be able to let herself fall in love again. Meanwhile, April and Lawrence are battling through their own messy lives, and Ester and April’s mother, Hilary, is facing the most significant decision she’ll ever have to make.

Taking place over one rainy day in Sydney, and rendered with the evocative and powerful prose Blain is known for, Between a Wolf and a Dog is a novel about dissatisfactions and anxieties in the face of relative privilege. Yet it is also a celebration of the best in all of us - our capacity to live in the face of ordinary sorrows, and to draw strength from the transformative power of art. Ultimately, it is a joyous recognition of the profound beauty of being alive.

Review

The intriguing title of Georgia Blain’s new novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog, comes from a French expression, L’heure entre chien et loup: the hour between dog and wolf. Referring to the twilight moments between day and night when it is impossible to see clearly enough to distinguish a dog from a wolf, this expression speaks to the heart of Blain’s extraordinary novel. Blain is an expert at grappling with the messy in-between bits, times when we find ourselves with no clear distinction separating right from wrong, friends from foes, a full life from a shallow one. Between a Wolf and a Dog masterfully explores these shades of grey.

The novel follows a cast of four characters, estranged sisters Ester (a therapist) and April (a once-famous, now-struggling musician), their mother Hilary (a filmmaker) and Ester’s ex-husband Lawrence (a pollster). Set on one rainy day in Sydney, Blain alternates perspective between the four, including flashbacks to significant events. All members of this complicated family are handled with great care and affection by Blain; they are flawed characters, with full lives and a rich history, never limited by the tight timeframe of the novel. Instead, the day that Blain walks the reader through felt as real to me as a day from my own life; I found myself utterly invested in these characters, moved by both their pain and the moments of joy that seep through.

Saying too much would spoil this affecting novel. While Blain manages to explore a lot of weighty issues (family dynamics, especially between siblings, fidelity, relationships breaking down, the role of the artist, the responsibilities of the political pollster, plus the woes of clients who visit Ester for therapy sessions) these concerns are dealt with organically within the text. Blain’s characters come first; her prose is clean and delicate, never heavy-handed. Between a Wolf and a Dog is beautiful, sensitive and unsettling; I urge you to read it.


Stella Charls is the marketing and events coordinator for Readings.

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