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Book Review: Nest by Inga Simpson

Bethany Nevile

She had come to see the cockatoo as her totem bird. They tended to appear whenever she asked for answers – and sometimes when she hadn’t – giving some sort of sign…

The premise of Inga Simpson’s second novel Nest, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin and Stella prizes, is a simple one.

A woman returns to her small Australian hometown after decades away, reconnects with old friends and inadvertently stirs up the past.

While there is a crime that is resolved by the end of the book, that’s not the core focus here. Nest is a character study, and has a lot to say about healing through both nature and art.

After buying a house up high, away from any neighbours, Jen settles into a quiet life with visits from her sole art pupil, Henry, and the many different birds that frequent her property.

She knows the koel from the kookaburra, and delights in their company. Events in the town force her to become more involved, as the disappearance of a local girl reopens the cold case of her childhood friend Michael and the interest of a local gallery owner helps her find new artistic inspiration.

Throughout the novel Jen struggles with the past, as she tries to let go of a failed relationship as well as difficulties with her mother and questions surrounding her absentee father, who left the family around the time of Michael’s disappearance.

While all the issues are resolved by the end, that’s not what keeps you turning the pages. It’s the relatable voice of Jen, her passion and enthusiasm for nature and capturing it through art that she helps to instil in young Henry.

Simpson’s language is lovely, especially when she is describing the local flora and fauna, and the moments dealing with grief and loss were gently and touchingly handled Jen’s fear that she has accidentally killed one of the birds she loves so much was a standout scene.

Nest was an absorbing and thoughtful read, and will make you appreciate that beautiful bird call just a little more.

Hear Inga speak in conversation with writer Rosanna Steven at Muse in Kingston on the 24th of November.

Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine or soft drink. Visit the website for more info and to book tickets.

You can purchase the book from your favourite local bookstore or online.

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Bethany Nevile

Bethany Nevile is a Canberra local and recently graduated from the ANU with an honours degree in English Literature. She loves op shopping, baking, binge reading, live music, theatre, trashy TV and thinks there is always room for dessert. More about the Author

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