What Came Before:Year of Australian Writing


I've knocked over a few more books for the Year of Australian Writing Challenge, and the first one I finished was What Came Before, by Anna George.

What a cracking read. It's a tightly woven thriller that shows how the romantic domestic bliss of Elle and her husband, David, spirals out of control into an abusive relationship.

I read this book in about 36 hours flat. The title - What Came Before - points to structure of the book. It starts off with the sentence: 

'My name is David James Forrester. I'm a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife. This is my statement.'

The rest of the book is dedicated to showing all that comes before, and how a seemingly loving relationship degenerates into one of abuse and control. George deftly unpacks the physiological, emotional and physical warning signs of David becoming increasingly controlling, domineering, and abusive. 

I don't think I've ever read a piece of fiction that unpacks the cycles of domestic violence so clearly. George deftly shows the devastating impact of emotional abuse and the wearing down of a partner's confidence and self-esteem, until they doubt their own worth, sanity and judgement. 

At times its a hard book to read, but it also raises important themes surrounding domestic violence and abuse, things we need to keep talking about in our communities, friendship groups and as a society.

Among other things, the book answers with terrifying clarity the question too often asked of women experiencing abusive relationships - "Why did she stay?" 

From the first sentence you might (like I did) have an awful sense of foreboding about reading the rest of the book. George's triumph is to pack in a stack of twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing right up until the last page.  No spoilers here, but the end of the book is not even remotely close to how I thought it would end! 

It's a story of abuse and control, but it's also one of strength, resilience, light, hope, and humanity. For that, I loved it.

Have you read What Came Before? What did you think? Any other Australian gems I need to add to my reading pile?



4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the recommendation Pia. Sounds like a great read. I've just finished Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty which started off pretty light weight but turned darker when two of the characters reveal their history of physical abuse. I'm going to put What Came Before on the list! x

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  2. That's great to hear about Liane Moriarty lots of people like her books but I'm yet to read one - there's a very solid waiting list for copies at my library! I'll have to put myself down on the list. A little lighter weight might be good - I read Helen Garner's This House of Grief after What Came Before, so def in need of some light x

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  3. This sounds like a great read Pia. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  4. Thanks Deb! This reading challenge is great and I'm loving reading what other people are reading and loving.

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