I found Darkwater by Georgia Blain (Random House, 2010) at the library after reading Special. Darkwater is a very different story, but Blain’s writing is exceptional as always. Despite my love for the book, I’m having trouble writing about it. Perhaps due to my cousin and my state of mind around murder, but here goes.

Darkwater by Georgia Blain

Set in the long hot summer of 1973, Winter’s community experiences the tragic death of Amanda Clarke, a friend of Winter’s brother Joe. Amanda was found drowned in the river. The police are investigating and gossip is rife because no one knows if Amanda’s death was accident, suicide or murder. Joe and Amanda’s other friends are helping the police with their inquiries.

“She was gone but it seemed she was still always there, right at the center.”

As the languid days drag on, Amanda’s friend Lyndon becomes the chief suspect, especially when the police want to question him and he’s nowhere to be found. Georgia Blain evokes the sticky heat and latent fear of the community with her singular writing.

“Words spinning around the room in a blur of unfocused chatter.”

I loved the side story of Winter’s mum’s opposition to the land development, with lilting descriptions of the bush and sandstone cliffs and caves surrounding the river. Georgia Blain uses nature writing in Special in a similar way, unexpectedly slipping in the natural world.

I didn’t notice Winter’s unusual name so much due to her first person point of view. Writing her name now, when summer’s oppressive heat pervades the story is ironic. Georgia Blain is clever like that. At first Winter won’t tell her crush her name, because kids tease her, but that’s the only time it’s mentioned.

“A rush of wind in my hair and the sharp taste of the excitement in my mouth, as I crouched low, swooping down that hill, turning in a wide graceful arc straight into the school gates, my board smooth and sure, and it was like flying, so unbelievably wild.”

skating with my niece

The skating with Nick the crush was a fun surprise. I thought I’d given up the skating life, but no, that rush will never leave me. Even though my social media is filled with skating, reading about it led to taking my niece to the skate park. She’s better than I thought, perhaps we’ve found a joint love.

“Something like that poor girl’s death, it ripples out. It’s a stain that spreads, touching us all.”

While I read, my thoughts kept wending back to my cousin’s death and the ripples this caused in my family’s life. A couple of months ago the man who killed him was sentenced. He pleaded guilty, so everything goes faster (the man was in remand for a year, not exactly fast). It doesn’t make it easier.

My aunt cries for him every day. My mourning hasn’t been as active this year, but the court case brings it all back. Ripples spread out and return. I used to love true crime and all those police procedurals, but now they’re just too real. I remember the horror of Cropley’s death, but don’t feel his loss with the same urgency now. My aunt and uncle and Reuben’s brothers do and I feel for their pain, still fresh and far from a memory.

“The bare branches crisscross the clear blue skies overhead and the heavy heat of summer is hard to remember.”