Lemniscate, like Kerouac’s road novels, is imbued with a sense of lived truth. It is a fascinating evocation of a lost age of travel of a particular kind. In Bali, Elsie says: ’Everywhere I see evidence of a beautiful, gentle, intricate culture and at the same time I know that my very presence is part of the corruption and ultimate ending of that world.
More than simply a travel novel, Lemniscate is a meditation on what drives us to travel, how the experience transforms the traveller, and the lessons we can take away from immersing ourselves in other cultures, particularly the experience of seeing our own society through an anthropologist’s eyes on our return.
Jo Case, Australian Book Review, February 2009
…I slowly became engrossed in the main character’s journey of self-knowledge in 1970s Australia and abroad. Elsie O’Reilly comes from a messy and devoted Catholic family in Adelaide, but cannot conform to their expectations that she settle down; ‘What I want, more than anything in the world, is to be myself’. It is not self-indulgent navel-gazing that Elsie wants, but exploration and connection. She makes strong friendships with people wherever she goes in the world-Afghanistan, India and Greece. There is one special person in particular, a young man called Kiwi, but, being independent, he and Elsie seem to go their own ways. What McGrath has done is give us a memorable character who lives during times of personal and social change, and with whom we can also strongly connect. If only those first few dozen pages were freed from their ordinariness, this would be an outstanding first novel. **** Excellent
Sue Bond, Australian Bookseller & Publisher
…It’s all pretty exotic stuff: being proposed to by a Bedouin son of a sheik and an Afghan prince, hanging out in an opium den, drinking pomegranate juice, breakfasting with Christian missionaries and so forth.
When she returns home to staid Adelaide after three years of intrepid trekking, the tumult of family life and parental expectations of settling down cannot tame her wrestless spirit. Elsie chafes under the strain of having to talk about ‘babies, carpets, tiredness and gossip’ and it isn’t long before she has itchy feet again. Lemniscate is part travelogue, part autobiography and all about the getting of wisdom.
– Thuy On, The Age, Saturday December 13, 2008
…At its heart is well-observed journey for self-knowledge, and the realisation of how important serendipity can be.
Lucy Sussex, Sunday Age, December 21, 2008
The story is beautifully descriptive and sensitively seductive. A very good read.
Tineke Haze www.middlemiss.org
….. by the end of it I had become so emeshed in Elsie’s world that I was sad to leave it.
Sky Harrison, Wet Ink : The Magazine of New Writing March 2009