ABC / Writers

A woman shopping for a gun; a doctor considering the unthinkable: the novels going where fiction fears to tread

Jane Caro’s new book begins with a woman shopping for a gun.

In The Mother, Caro’s first novel for adults, we meet 50-something-year-old Miriam Duffy, a successful real estate business owner and grandmother of two.

Miriam, recently widowed, is not someone you’d expect to find contemplating a glass cabinet full of lethal weapons. At first, she tells the man behind the counter that she’s “just looking”, but the licence in her handbag reveals a different story — she’s here to buy.

This moment finds an echo in a handful of new novels in which women are faced with equally stark choices. In Debra Oswald’s book, The Family Doctor, a woman stands staring at a syringe whose contents could kill the patient she is attending to. In Robert Lukins’ Loveland, a woman watches a man pick up a knife, and knows how it will end.

Compulsively readable yet unsettling, they raise a difficult question: what happens when the law fails to protect women from violent men?

“It’s always interesting to see new trends emerge in writing, and these Australian authors certainly seem to have revenge on their minds right now,” says Claire Nichols, host of ABC RN’s The Book Show.

“These books forced me to consider what I would do in a hopeless situation. There’s a vicarious thrill in seeing these women take matters into their own hands, but their actions obviously throw up a whole new set of ethical questions for the reader to consider.”

First published by the ABC on May 12, 2022. Read the rest of the story here.