PICK OF THE WEEK
Twentysomething Joe arrives in Bandung, a city on Java, to teach English, in this moody and unsettling novel from William Lane. Anyone who has had a similar experience will recognise immediately what the author evokes with precision: that the borders of an expat’s identity are somehow more porous, looser. The novel charts Joe’s interaction with various women – Lisa, a fellow teacher, with her harem of Javanese boys; Danu, a local beauty who claims to be seeking an escape from an arranged marriage; Babette, an English recluse and friend of her brother’s, who lives in a crumbling colonial mansion. Over the Water is a taut and densely imagined encounter with Indonesian culture, the myth and superstition that pervades it and the tensions between East and West.
Cameron Woodhead, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 August 2014
… the more time he spends absorbing and exploring the culture of his new home, the more Joe discovers about himself.
Emily Taylor, The Examiner, 6 September 2014
An unexpected sense of menace and melancholy pervades this debut novel about cultural difference and identity, set in Indonesia’s third-largest city. Following in the footsteps of his enigmatic older brother, 23-year-old Joe arrives in Bandung to teach English and immediately ‘struggles with that imposter feeling’. As a seemingly innocent outsider, he quickly becomes embroiled in the lives of various women, both foreign and local. His relationships form with an accelerated intimacy and he begins to question the possibility of romantic love and the notion of freedom, leaving him feeling uncertain of his place in the world. It’s this sense of displacement that William Lane captures so well.
This is a refreshingly original exploration of the gulfs and bridges between Australia and Indonesia, one that goes beyond the superficiality of massages, temples and sunset cocktails. The final pages are a sobering reminder that, no matter where you live in the world, freedom often comes at a price.
Sally Keighery, Readings Monthly, August 2014