Springtime: A Ghost Story by Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de Kretser’s Springtime begins casually after our protagonist, Frances, and her partner, Charlie, move from Melbourne to Sydney. Frances, having taken up a research fellowship at the University of Sydney to study objects in eighteenth-century French paintings, splits her time between writing and taking her frightened bull-terrier, Rod, for walks.

It is during these walks that the ghosting occurs. Already befuddled by the lack of an organised, Melbourne-style street grid, navigating a path away from other dogs to appease Rod and distracted by the lushness of the Sydney springtime gardens, Frances is spooked by someone only she seems able to see.

The storytelling in Springtime is very visual but also (quite comically) straightforward. De Kretser’s descriptions of the parks and gardens placed me there with Frances and Rod. I felt the heat of the sun as the paths turned to face east and the cool relief once the shade of trees and established gardens were reached. Yet the straight-to-the-punch analysis of fellow dinner guests tells us just as much, and it is in this dinner scene that talk of ghosts finally begins.

De Kretser’s prose is relaxed and this novella reads like a stream of thoughts that are not necessarily connected to one another. Despite this, I found it worked very well in placing me inside Frances’s head and creating a sense of other-worldliness. I very much enjoyed this tale and the ending had me jumping back to the beginning for an instant re-read. It’s something that is easy to do with such a deliciously bound hardback novella!

Suzanne Steinbruckner works as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda.