The Passage of Love

Alex Miller

 
The Passage of Love
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The Passage of Love

Alex Miller

Sitting in a New York park, an old man holds a book and tries to accept that his contribution to the future is over. Instead, he remembers a youthful yearning for open horizons, for Australia, a yearning he now knows inspired his life as a writer. Instinctively he picks up his pen and starts at the beginning.

At twenty-one years, Robert Crofts leaves his broken dreams in Far North Queensland, finally stopping in Melbourne almost destitute. It’s there he begins to understand how books and writing might be the saving of him. They will be how he leaves his mark on the world. He also begins to understand how many obstacles there will be to thwart his ambition.

When Robert is introduced to Lena Soren, beautiful, rich and educated, his life takes a very different path. But in the intimacy of their connection lies an unknowability that both torments and tantalises as Robert and Lena long for something that neither can provide for the other.

In a rich blend of thoughtful and beautifully observed writing, the lives of a husband and wife are laid bare in their passionate struggle to engage with their individual creativity. Alex Miller is magnificent in this most personal of all novels filled with rare wisdom and incisive observation.

Review

I don’t suppose Alex Miller is religious – nor am I, for that matter – however, I did think of Corinthians 13:8 when reading Miller’s new book, The Passage of Love. It goes something like this, depending on the translation: ‘Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.’ It seems to me that the multi-awarded novelist is tackling these very issues in this, his grand and wonderful fictional autobiography.

Here, we meet Robert Crofts and follow him as he searches for a place to be still, loved, and creative. He marries a beautiful artist, Lena: together and separately, they strive to live an absolute truth. They travel the country and finish up living together in isolated country Victoria. The relationship proves unsustainable – and in those crumbling, lonely years where it disintegrates, this beautiful novel becomes heartbreaking. Miller explores notions of masculinity, marriage and trust as he conjures up the alienating forces of the country around him, and of his protagonist’s hopes and dreams. These passages allow a view into the private mind of one of our most acclaimed authors. You, the reader, become a trespasser into this land of anguish. In an interview last year, Miller said he had been trying to write this novel for 20 years. It is essentially about his time with his first wife, Australian artist Anne Neil, who has since died.

The Passage of Love is a gift. It tells us about living with a undeniable creative force and the consequences of being utterly transparent in one’s desires. It is an observation, a sharing of knowledge, and a transcript of a life lived with yearning. The Passage of Love is quite extraordinary.


Chris Gordon is the events manager for Readings.

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