GEORGIA BLAIN is a novelist and journalist who lives in Sydney. Her first novel, Closed for Winter, was adapted into movie in 2009. We asked her a few questions about her latest novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog.
Why did you decide to frame your novel within a single day? Was it difficult to write a story that spanned only one day?
I like writing with structural constraints; it often produces the most interesting material. However, I did cheat a bit on the one-day span. Most of the novel takes place over one rainy day in Sydney, although there is a section in the middle that looks back to the past, when two of my characters threw a metaphorical hand grenade into their lives.
Have you read any other novels that encapsulate the events of one day?
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is the most recent book I’ve read that spans one day.
What aspects of your own life and family have entered into or inspired the characters and happenings in Between a Wolf and a Dog?
This is probably the least autobiographical of my works, although that said, I often draw on incidents I have witnessed or emotions I have felt, particularly when the action or feeling makes me curious.
A notable theme of your novel is betrayal. Do you think betrayal is a normal part of family life or is the family in Between a Wolf and a Dog particularly indulgent with their emotions and actions?
I think most of us often don’t behave in the way in which we would like, particularly when we are with family.
Do you think the decisions and actions of this family are, at least partly, a result of their privileged and artistic lives?
Not necessarily – no one is immune from making bad decisions.
Does privilege make people somewhat immune to the harsher realities of life?
Wealth certainly insulates you from some of the harsher realities of life, but privilege may mean that you have more time to dwell on your mistakes – not necessarily to change the way in which you live your life, but to brood.
Ester’s career involves helping people in crisis. Do you think people expect therapists to have better personal relationships than they actually have and to be more capable and level-headed than they really are?
Therapists and psychiatrists are people like the rest of us, but most of us are often surprised when their flaws are revealed. A friend of mine who became a psychiatrist told me that his fascination with his own parlous mental state led him to the profession.
The rain is a constant companion to all the characters. What was its purpose? Was it to mirror their sadness or mark their renewal?
I usually don’t intentionally mirror the emotional lives of my characters in the physical environment, but I’m then surprised at how often this occurs in my work. Sydney has torrential rain, and it can last for days – it’s elemental weather. I suppose I saw more of a parallel between the downpour and the way in which my characters are stripped back to a raw state, an elemental state, if you like.
The main characters all swam at some point in the river alongside the family holiday shack. Do you think they were hoping for a baptism of forgiveness and change?
Again, I probably didn’t intentionally use the river as a metaphor. This was a place that was dear to them, the place in which they’d had some of their happiest moments. Perhaps their return was to find some kind of courage or strength in the memory of their joy.
Which writers or books do you greatly admire?
I admire the seamlessness of Alice Munro’s short stories, the quiet beauty of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, the precision of a writer like Joan Didion, and the tension between fictional narrative and autobiography in Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle.
Can you recommend any good short story collections that you’ve read recently?
I loved Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Six Bedrooms and James Bradley’s Clade, a collection of interlinked stories.
Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain is published by Scribe, rrp $29.99.