A brave new novel that sensitively explores one woman’s experience of sexual violence and the silencing of those who feel compelled to speak out.
What happens when a young woman enters a city apartment early morning, with two footballers? Jordi Spence is sixteen years old and lives in outer Melbourne. By daybreak, her world has shifted. Max Carlisle, a troubled AFL star, can’t stop what comes next. And Ruby, a single woman from the apartment block, is left with questions when she sees Jordi leave.
In this remarkable novel, Rachel Matthews captures the characters of Jordi and her family, the players, and the often loveable inhabitants of a big city with a deceptive lightness of touch that seduces the reader. Siren reveals the often unnoticed life of a city while simultaneously drawing us deep into a dark and troubling world. What happens has an unexpected effect on all those who are both directly and indirectly involved.
The result is a powerful and haunting novel about cultural stereotypes and expectations, love, loneliness, family and our struggle to connect. In so many ways, Matthews subtly sounds the siren on sexual violence and its prevalence in our culture.
‘Siren is the type of novel we should be reading if we are seriously going to tackle the issue of discrimination and sexual violence in our culture. While the story and treatment of a character like Jordi reflect recent cases of sexual violence surrounding football clubs, I was equally struck by issues of domestic and sexual violence more widely pervading Australian society. And while the AFL is something of a closed shop when it comes to protecting its brand, it is also a reflection of other institutions, workplaces and family situations. Therefore, anyone reading this novel will be aware of similar instances of exploitation, cover-ups and ‘blaming the victim’ that Jordi suffers. Siren is a gritty and honest novel in its depiction of sexual violence against young women. It deals with the experience and aftermath of violence that neither sanitises the experience physically or psychologically. This is an important work.’
Tony Birch, author of Ghost River and The Promise.