Michelle de Kretser - Questions of Travel (3 stars)

An intelligent novel with a sardonic bite that will crush any clichés for the romantic traveller

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Michelle de Kretser - Questions of Travel

(Allen & Unwin)

Questions of Travel does exactly what it says on the tin, provoking observations and philosophical musings upon the who, what and why of travelling. Beginning in the eighties and the ensuing internet boom, the story juxtaposes two characters to convey very different perspectives on modern day travelling: dumpy, Australian Laura, for whom ‘Geography was beside the point’, drifts through the world writing for a travel magazine; and Ravi, a traumatised Sri Lankan, who as a victim of his country’s civil war learns that ‘Geography is destiny’, and is forced to emigrate to Australia.

An ambitious novel, Questions of Travel is at first glance not easy to read. The restless narrative springs back and forth in time with little contextual guidance. De Krestser’s language can at times veer towards the pretentiously elaborate. Yet the meandering rhythm, sympathetic characters and de Krestser’s obvious imaginative flair with words combine to gradually seduce the reader. But be warned this intelligent novel has a sardonic bite that will crush any clichés for the romantic traveller.

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