The Garden Book
Brian Castro's award-winning novel, The Garden Book, is a meditation on loneliness, addiction and exploitation. Set in the years between the Depression and the Second World War in Australia's Dandenong Ranges, it follows the emotionally turbulent life of the beautiful Swan Hay (born Shuang He)--her marriage to the passionate yet brutal Darcy Damon, her love affair with the aviator Jasper Zenlin and her rise to literary fame overseas after her poetry is translated into French without her knowledge. Fifty years after her disappearance into institutions and a life of poverty and despair, Norman Shih--a rare-book librarian and "expert in self-effacement"--begins to piece together the life and losses of Swan. Tracking down clues from guesthouse libraries, antiquarian bookshops and Swan's own haunted writings, Shih fills out a portrait of early twentieth-century Australian lives wracked by modernist impulses of racial prejudice.