Crossing That Bridge: Heather Rose’s ‘Bruny’ Blunder

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Seen the road to hell lately?

It’s a mess. Paved with good intentions, the path to perdition is littered with bad decisions, the failed forays of famous folk who sought success in a speciality other than their own.

Many are called to cross-over but few are chosen…

Singers and sportsmen, authors and actors – the line of wrecks is long and varied, taking in everything from Ash Barty’s crack at cricket to Chris Cornell’s dalliance with dance-pop.

Now the Tasmanian novelist, Heather Rose, has come a cropper.

Last year Rose published Bruny, the follow-up to her Stella Prize-winning novel, The Museum of Modern Love, a work of literary fiction. Billed as a thriller, her latest book proves that acing a new genre ain’t easy, even for an accomplished author.

What went wrong?

It’s a good question. Bruny appears to have all the hallmarks of a respectable thriller: a preposterous plot, a cast of barely credible characters, an awkward romance and a nondescript style.

And yet it lacks a key component of any self-respecting suspense novel.

Show don’t tell – it’s the shibboleth most closely associated with creative writing. Despite its limitations, this tenet holds true for some books. Take the thriller: readers of this kind of novel need to feel close to the action.

Too often in Bruny the real business takes place in the background, especially as the story goes on. The result? The tension never builds. (And the book garners praise as a ‘satire‘.)

Sadly, some parts of the story kept me on the edge of my seat: namely the narrator’s tiresome tirades about the state of Tasmania. Would they never end?

Despite my reservations – all totally valid, I’m sure, and yet totally irrelevant – Bruny continues to sell well here in Hobart, almost a year after its release.

Which just goes to show: I’m as bad a judge of another writer’s work as I am of my own. Failure is clearly more transferable than success.

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