After all the attention Romy Ash’s debut Floundering has received this year, and all the praise I’d heard about the novel, it sounded like a book I would enjoy, and one which I had to read. Somehow, despite everything I’d read and heard about the novel before I started reading it, when I delved into the pages I found myself lost in something completely different to what I had expected, and I wonder if this surprise was part of the reason I loved this novel so much.
Brothers Tom and Jordy get left on their grandparents’ doorstep by their mother, Loretta. Then out of the blue, she returns, and takes the boys back. Told through the eyes of nine-year old Tom, I found this novel heart-breaking. Ash’s prose is both stark and mellow, as she pulls the reader into Tom’s world, where even the most unusual situations don’t seem out of the ordinary to the young boy. I fought back tears for much of the novel, and alternated between anger and sadness for Loretta, who clearly tries her best but doesn’t have much idea. I admired the boys and their resilience, as the book serves as a reminder that while kids are resilient people, who knows what long-lasting effects certain events may have on the rest of their lives?
Books I love I can usually read again and again, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to read Floundering again. The writing is raw, the emotion real and I convinced myself that what I was reading was real. Ash brought the vast Australian landscape to life, where it’s not difficult to feel like you’re the last person on earth, together with characters who could be those people who live just down the road, or those kids you knew from school. Floundering is a novel which isn’t easy to forget, and, despite evoking so much emotion, is very enjoyable to read. But maybe only once.
Floundering, Romy Ash. Text Publishing, 2012