fire fire, by Eva Sallis

The Houdini family move to an isolated property in the South Australian bush to be free. The house is old and rambling, built on to an old hall in many additions, most of which are now in disrepair. Here the family plan to escape the outside world. They have come home to Australia from Germany, where Pa Houdini was a famous violinist and Acantia (the mother) an artist.

Here in the bush they educate their children, withdrawing them from traditional schooling, and foster their musical genius and other creative skills. The children run and play in the house and in the bush that surrounds it, while Pa continues to practice his music and the mother, Acantia, paints.

All this freedom and pursuit of self-expression should be wholesome and uplifting, but it isn’t. The children are controlled by the sometimes neglectful, often cruel actions of their mother, who becomes increasingly mad and out of control.Gradually the family splinters, moving towards total destruction from which there may be no return.

This is a gripping and compelling tale, spun with layers of language and of meaning. The reader is drawn in, wanting to tend to the children and to heal the parents, even whilst not fully understanding why the family is in such chaos.

This is a story of love and of damage, of growing up and growing away.It shows how some bonds can be strengthened by adversity, whilst others may vanish.

Eva Sallis is a versatile and intense writer. fire fire is engrossing.

fire fire, by Eva Sallis
Allen & Unwin, 2004