The Broken Book, by Susan Johnson

From a childhood in rural Australia, to cosmopolitan London and a rustic Greek isle, Katherine Elgin is a woman desperate to make her mark.

At heart she is a poet, but her literary career begins with a job for a Sydney newspaper. Later, she achieves some publication success but, throughout her life, she struggles to release the perfect story she believes is trapped within.

As she navigates the life of an artist, she also struggles with her real life – as mother of two and wife to another writer, who claims she is his muse, yet is both jealous and scornful of her.

Paralell with Elgin’s life is that of her character, Cressida Morley, whose story she struggles to tell. Perhaps it is her inability to make sense of her own life which prevents her from making sense of her character’s.

Cressida Morley is not a new character in Australian fiction. She first appeared in the work of Charmian Clift and, later, that of her husband George Johnston. Katherine Elgin, the writer character at the centre of The Broken Book is based on Clift, though this is not meant to be a biography.

This is a book with many levels, filled with characters who in turn have similar levels. The intertwining of the lives of a writer and her character leaves the reader guessing at what is fiction and what is real in these stories which are both left unfinished.

A compelling read.

The Broken Book, by Susan Johnson
Allen & Unwin, 2004