Summary and book reviews of Disquiet by Julia Leigh

Disquiet

By Julia Leigh

Disquiet
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  • Paperback: Nov 2008,
    128 pages.

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Book Summary

Olivia arrives at her mother’s chateau in rural France (the first time in more than a decade) with her two young children in tow. Soon the family is joined by Olivia’s brother Marcus and his wife Sophie—but this reunion is far from joyful. After years of desperately wanting a baby, Sophie has just given birth to a stillborn child, and she is struggling to overcome her devastation. Meanwhile, Olivia wrestles with her own secrets about the cruel and violent man she married many years before. Exquisitely written and reminiscent of Ian McEwan and J. M. Coetzee, Disquiet is a darkly beautiful and atmospheric story that will linger in the mind long after the final page is turned.

Excerpt
Disquiet

They stood before the great gateway, all around an empty and open countryside, ugly countryside, flat mudploughed fields. On that morning the sky was balm, a pale and whitish blue. The woman was dressed in a tweed pencil skirt, a grey silk blouse and her dark hair was pulled back into a loose chignon, the way her mother once used to wear it. Her right arm was broken and she'd rested it in a silk-scarf sling which co-ordinated unobtrusively with her blouse. By her feet, a suitcase. The children - the boy was nine, the girl was six and carrying her favourite doll - were saddled with backpacks and they each guarded a small suitcase of their own. The woman stepped forward and went right up to the gate - iron-spiked, imposing - looking for the lock. Instead she found the surveillance system, a palmpad, and she rested her palm on this electronic pad for a long moment until she was defeated. Unfazed, she returned to collect her suitcase and, without a backward ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Though some critics have argued that Disquiet is light on plot, Olivia's evolution is absorbing and complex. Leigh is an artist working at the top of her game, and the success of this novella lies in her ability to shave as much fat from her narrative as possible, while maintaining deep, profound significance. Similar to a Rembrandt sketch, this novella breathes full-bodied life through only a few deft, precise strokes. Like a poem, each word carries a heavy load. Leigh is a remarkable, stunning writer and Disquiet is a must-read.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

The climactic image in Julia Leigh's stifling novella, Disquiet .... is a magnificent depiction of human distress and testament to the author's stunning talent. Sadly, the rest of the book, barely over 100 small pages, is as disappointing as it is baffling.

The Age (Australia)

Like The Hunter, Disquiet exhibits Julia Leigh's substantial and rare talent. There is a great deal to admire here, and the feat she attempts is virtuosic. Toni Morrison is right: Leigh's power comes from control juxtaposed with her ability to disturb. But, here, the earthquake underfoot doesn't build quite enough power to move.

The Times (UK)

The book is beautiful, but very cerebral. It melts the ice in the hearts of its characters. The reader, however, though often surprised and left with plenty to think about, is not particularly moved.

The Guardian (UK)

Yet, for all its narrative facility, there is something mannered about Disquiet. Leigh's attempts to invoke an elemental profundity with repeated references to oak, mountain and water do not convince ("the door was oak and he was boy"; "in that moment they were mountain and lake, ancient"; "no boy is mountain and lake"). It deploys the most potent, painful subjects, but as a piece of work, it cannot quite justify its themes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] subtle portrait of a broken family trying to piece itself back together.

Kirkus Reviews

It's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be electrified by this haunting, masterfully told story. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be changed by it.

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Beyond the Book

Disquiet is Julia Leigh's second work of fiction, and it took her nine years to write. When asked why it took her so long, Leigh replies: "There is a nice quote I like from poet Elizabeth Bishop, something like scientists and artists are alike in that they are prepared to waste effort ... When I am exploring things, ...

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