Clade, by James Bradley: A Year of Australian Writing

I've been wanting to read some of James Bradley's work for a while now, and finally I got my mitts on his latest novel, Clade.

It's an incredibly compelling read, spanning three generations and set in the future (around 2057), in a world at the brink of ecological collapse. Disappearing bees, global viruses, extreme weather patterns and refugees fleeing both natural and man-made disasters.

It sounds apocalyptic, and yet it's not. At the centre of the story is Adam, a scientist, and his wife Ellie, an artist, who is desperate for a child.

Their struggles to become parents, and then to be parents to their daughter, Summer, in a world collapsing in upon itself, is riveting stuff. In the hands of a different writer, I suspect this story would have slipped into unrelenting doom and gloom.

Instead, Bradley infuses humanity, vulnerability, hope and love into the story, where the lives of characters over three generations reverberate against each other. 

It's terrifying that the 2057 fictional world he's imagined, is in some ways already here - global viruses, collapsing ecosystems, floods and cyclones, disappearing species. But at its heart Clade is also a story of love. Love between lovers; between a parent and their child, and between a grandparent and their grandchild.

To me, some of the most touching parts of Clade address the deep love of a parent or grandparent for a child, and the unfathomable ways this love changes a person and how they see the world.

Despite the desperate environmental message of this book, and it's obvious call to protect the planet and examine our consumerist ways, Clade is also full of hope.

Hope for the ability of humans to find a new way of living that doesn't destroy this beautiful planet we live on. Hope that we can make a better future for those we love - our children, the ecosystems around us, family and others, where ever they live and whatever their circumstances.

And perhaps this is what stayed with me the most after reading the book. That like bees and their hives, we are connected to this world and reliant on the natural planet, and to others, in ways we cannot even fully fathom.
And if we are to save our world, then it's up to us to find new and sustainable ways to live, love, and support this world, before time runs out. And run out it almost does in Clade, but there's a definite (and defiant) ring of hope through-out the book.

Bradley sees all of us as part of a continuum, part of a river of life that will flow on, if only we have the will to sustain and protect the planet we live on. It's a beautifully written book and I can't recommend it enough.

This Year of Australian Writing challenge has made me read some very different books and what a pleasure it's turning out to be!

What about you. Read any great Australian writing recently? Share away!


  1. Oh Pia this one sounds wonderful and right up my alley. Unfortunately I have been reading everything BUT Australian over the past month. (Naughty) Will put on my to read list x

    1. I really liked it Karen, and found it beautifully written. Give it a go!

  2. This sounds fab Pia and will add it to the list. I have recently read another of your recommendations "What Came Before" and have just embarked upon "The Night Guest". Thanks for all these great suggestions - you have good taste ! x

    1. Thanks Ing! This reading challenge has been great because I've read quite different genres and probably things I'd never otherwise have tried. It's been good!

  3. Oh dear. Can I just slink away and pretend I didn't read your post? Gulp. Probably not. I can't remember the last book I read. Well actually I'm still reading it, I started it 6 months ago. eek. BUT i thought i might take cityhippyfarmgirl's recommendation of Favel Parrett's when the night comes as my next thing to read ... whenever that may be.

  4. I second cityhippyfarmgirl's recommendation - When the Night Comes I thought was awesome, and it's not very long either - win win!



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