“Springtime: A Ghost Story”
By Michelle de Kretser
Catapult (85 pages, $11.95)
Disturbing ripples run through this novella from an award-winning Sri Lankan author who grew up in Australia. We join the life of lead character Frances as she moves to modern-day Sydney to pursue her studies of elements of composition in 18th-century art. She’s a keen observer of details, researching the significance not only of what’s in a painting, but what’s not.
Her story is both simple and intricate. Our first glimpse of Frances is as a woman walking her skittish dog, Rod, through the verdant back avenues of Sydney. Because Rod is afraid of his own shadow, she picks their routes carefully to avoid encountering other pets.
The pair do fine at this game, admiring blooming backyards as Frances wonders about the inhabitants inside. Frequently they spy a silent, well-dressed woman and her white terrier who seem to fit clumsily into the lush landscape. Rod barks and whines each time they pass the garden, and Frances decides to seek out this mysterious woman.
Each bite-sized chapter of this charming book is punctuated by a revelation, whether mundane or otherworldly, that reminds us that we all inhabit not just space, but time. It’s a fast and captivating read, leaving us to wonder what we might be missing as we wander through the landscapes of our own lives. (TNS)