Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident is the story of a brutal murder in a rural Australian town. The victim, Bella Michaels, was a much-loved member of the community and her death stuns not only those that knew her but the whole nation. Her sister, Chris, is left to grieve, search for answers, and deal with the growing media interest in Bella’s death.
I’ll get straight to the point – I didn’t care for this book at all. Am I wrong to have immediately thought that the story exploited the Jill Meagher case? And that there was a hint of treading the same path as Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things?
I suspect that Maguire’s aim was to spotlight the violence of men; the intrusiveness and grubbiness of the media, particularly when their focus is on a dead pretty girl with a seemingly ‘impeccable’ past; and the horror of having to grieve in the public eye. Some of this she achieves through the character of Chris, whose grief is raw, angry and inconsolable. However, the guts of the issues were not explored in a substantial or decisive way and I was left wondering if Maguire had defeated her own purpose.
A word on Maguire’s style – her use of the vernacular for the character of Chris was consistent but I felt overdone –
“I’m not trying to be dramatic. For real, how do you survive it? How do you go on every day every day every day living your life, everything the same, except now you’re doing it from the middle of this swamp of black blood? How do you drink your morning tea, chat with a friend, pour some beers, have a laugh, have a root, whatever, all of it while pushing and kicking and trying not to drown in the blackness?”
Like any person in the depths of grief, Chris comes to understand that you don’t simply ‘get over it’ – closure is a myth. Grief never quite leaves you – you go on, you survive, but a corner of you is damaged. Being able to examine that damage gets easier with time but it is what is – damage. Maguire’s insightful portrayal of Chris’s grief was the most admirable aspect of this story.
2/5 Not for me.
Comfort food for Chris is toasted cheese smothered in tomato sauce (I’d prefer if you to hold the sauce and use fresh tomato instead).