Can your life change in a single day? Three women and one man—two former lovers and two strangers, each with unresolved feelings from a past personal trauma—are drawn to Sydney Harbor. Lost in their own thoughts, each sees something different in the lines and curves of the opera house, and each seeks a way to move past memory to embrace the future.
Circular Quay: she loved even the sound of it.—Five Bells, by Gail Jones (Picador 2012)
Before she saw the bowl of bright water, swelling like something sexual, before she saw the blue, unprecedented, and the clear sky sloping upwards, she knew from the lilted words it would be a circle like no other, key to a new world. . . .
There was confusion at first, the shock of sudden light, all the signs, all the clamour. But the vista resolved and she saw before her the row of ferry ports each looking like a primary-colour holiday pavilion, and the boats, bobbing, their green and yellow forms toy-like, arriving absorbing slow lines of passengers, departing. With a trampoline heart. she saw the Bridge to her left: its modern shape, its optimistic uparching. Familiar from postcards and television commercials, here now, here-now, was the very thing itself, neat and enthralling. There were tiny flags on top and the silhouetted ant forms of people arduously climbing the steep bow. It looked stamped against the sky, as if nothing could remove it. (p. 1)
- Setting: Sydney Harbor (the opera house) on a single Saturday
- Circumstances: modern times, four people alone in a crowd
- Characters: Ellie, obsessed with a girlhood sexual experience; James, haunted by a personal tragedy; Pei Xing scarred by a political imprisonment; Catherine, burdened by the early death of a brother
- Themes: forgiveness, memory, loss, transformation
- Genre: literary fiction
- Awards: shortlisted for Victorian Premier's Literary Award for the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction (2011) ; a top-ten pick for 2012 from Christian Science Monitor