Heart of the Grass Tree by Molly Murn
Updated: May 14, 2019
Molly Murn is a friend. We’ve sat together around a bonfire, we drank wine and exchanged knowing looks. Once I heard her read one of her poems and I nearly spontaneously burst into tears.
I met Molly Murn at Oratunga Winter School. I was carrying around my copy of Little Bit Long Time by Ally Cobbi Eckerman and she was also a fan. She actually wrote ACE (as we call her) a poem and gave it to her!
I’m terrible at writing synopsis, but for a friend, here goes: Heart of the Grass Tree follows Nell’s family, her daughters, Diana and Lucy, and her Granddaughter Pearl, when they return to Kangaroo Island after Nell’s death. Along the way, we discover the secret that Nell has held in since her youth and which has affected the generations coming after her. We also discover the history of the Ngarrindjeri women Emue and Maringani who are kidnapped from the mainland and brought to Kangaroo Island by the sealers.
Don’t let the poetic writing in ‘Heart’ divert you from the truth of the novel. At Writer’s Week 2019, where Molly did a star turn on the last day, I heard somebody quoting Inga Clendinnen’s “Reading the Holocaust” saying that you when you write about horror, you cannot afford to say it is beyond belief. Molly has written a book which doesn’t look away. The fateful trip from Kangaroo Island to the mainland is described so unflinchingly, it is etched in my mind forever: one story to help to understand the vast horror of the colonisation of Australia.
When you write a novel you have to make people forget that they are reading, but then remember that they are reading, if the writing is good enough, to enjoy reading even more. Reading Molly’s book was such an enjoyable experience for me, to read and forget I was reading and then remember. I know those characters so well and their place on Kangaroo Island but then I remember Molly and that the characters were made up by her. I was conscious the whole time I was reading because I knew the author and the writing was so good and yet….there I was on Kangaroo Island crying my eyes out.
I read the last pages of Heart of the Grass Tree on the train into the city for Adelaide Writer’s Week, 2019 and the experience was pomo-licious.