cover image The Colour of Things Unseen

The Colour of Things Unseen

Annee Lawrence. Aurora Metro, $26.95 (300p) ISBN 978-1-912430-17-8

Lawrence’s thoughtful debut probes the mind and spirit of a somber Javanese painter struggling to adapt to life in Indonesia and Australia. After a sheltered childhood in a small village in 1990s Java, Adi wins a scholarship at a Sydney art school. Once there, he is unsettled by his peers’ outgoing personalities. Adi’s Muslim faith also sets him apart, but his politeness and talent as a painter gains him new friends, among them Lisa Davidson. They fall in love and marry, but the relationship becomes rocky after Lisa chafes against Adi’s expectations that she fill the role of a proper Javanese wife, whose purpose is to serve her husband and bear children. Lisa, pursuing her own doctorate in art history, isn’t ready to be a mother, and Adi cannot grasp her perspective. After years of marriage, Adi returns alone to Indonesia in 2011, and Lisa eventually follows. She soon learns more about the world that created her husband’s beliefs. Details of both Sydney and Java are delightfully described through an artist’s viewpoint (“freckled patterns of blue-grey green in the roadside bush, the sun-split muddy yellows and subtle hints of red and pink”). This story of love and art impresses in its portrayal of the characters’ hard-won success at bridging their cultural differences. (Sept.)