Gravel: Peter Goldsworthy

A man shoots his dog. A woman is ‘courted’ by a shop attendant. A father and daughter watch a couple’s last night played out on a second-hand camcorder. Needless to say, things are a little extreme in the murky world of Peter Goldsworthy. This is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, the finest stories in Gravel explore the ever malleable divide between security and self-delusion with both precision and insight, providing cohesion between theme and content not often seen in Australian short-story collections.

The characters in Gravel are immediately recognisable and yet often stray into emotional grey areas, leaving friends, family and loved ones in their pursuit of the unattainable. Along the way, reality shifts as if to mirror character’s skewed beliefs and changing priorities. Goldsworthy, at his best, is nothing short of brilliant, and while a couple of the stories left me cold, the majority are stunning. As each unfolds, the reader is drawn in, led one way, and then another, before finally being left with the mess that’s been made, a mess all the more unpalatable for its familiarity.