Culture Street


Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser

On February 27, 2013

By Sophia Whitfield

Michelle de Kretserís latest ambitious literary novel is ambitious in its scope. Her novel asks a myriad of questions about the benefits of travel, but also looks at the way we as individuals view the world. †In her breathtaking novel de Kretser acknowledges the marvels of travel, but also the disconnected nature of travel, which often leaves the traveller feeling quite alone. Through guidebooks, maps and characters de Kretser brings the world to the reader.

The novel is split between two main protagonists. Laura is born in Australia and Ravi in Sri Lanka, where de Kretser was born and raised. Laura is from a middle class family, but her childhood has been far from easy. Her mother dies when she is young and her surgeon father is often absent. She is brought up by Aunt Hester, who through her travel books imbues Laura with her first taste for travel. On the death of her aunt she inherits enough money to begin her travels; she travels to many parts of the world including Indonesia, France, Italy and India finally settling, as many Australians do, in London. De Kretser allows us to view the world from Lauraís point of view, an outsider who previously had only experienced the wonders of Australia.

In London Laura becomes known as a reliable house sitter, but soon begins to earn a living writing about travel. She is described as fairly plain, even odd, as she attempts to find direction in her life through travel. Once back in Sydney her life seems to stabilise although it is far from run of the mill. She is displaced in every sense throughout the novel.

Interspersed between Lauraís story is Raviís contrasting one. He dreams of travel, but goes nowhere. Married to the feisty Malini, he works as an information technician. †After terrible family events Ravi no longer feels safe in his own country, he is forced to leave Sri Lanka without his wife and child, seeking asylum in a land far safer than his own. Through the eyes of Ravi, an outsider, the reader is introduced to a different Australia from the one known to most of us.

De Kretser has written an elegant novel, full of questions rather than answers. Her two main disparate characters will in equal measures resonate and seem incomprehensible to the reader. It is a book of beauty, where fine details abound on every page creating a flawed, yet marvellous view of the world.

You Might Also Like


Leesa Bow selects Five Books of Influence

Leesa Bow grew up in Broken Hill, far west NSW. She moved to Adelaide, and married a football player. Inevitably her four daughters were also sporty. In 2009, Leesa began...

On September 3, 2014


Interview with Kimberley Freeman, author of Lighthouse Bay

Kimberley Freeman is an established writer under the name Kim Wilkins. She is moving her writing talents out of the speculative fiction genre and focusing on commercial women's fiction. She...

On October 30, 2012


Amy Hatvany on quitting her job to take a chance on writing books

Amy Hatvany was born in Seattle, WA and is the youngest of three children. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1994 with a degree in Sociology only to discover...

On June 26, 2013


The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna

By Sophia Whitfield

On August 11, 2014


All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

By Sophia Whitfield

On August 5, 2016


Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie

Sophie McKenzie is the award-winning author of YA fiction. Close My Eyes is her first adult novel and launches her as a new name to watch in the increasingly popular...

On June 11, 2013
Copyright © 2012 - 2018 Culture Street