Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.
Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia at fourteen. She is the author of The Rose Grower; The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize; and The Lost Dog, whose awards include the 2008 NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal.
Following two very different characters in parallel as their lives move closer together along very different paths, this ambitious novel is a prolonged meditation on the meaning of travel, and on the ways in which humanity has learned to negotiate time and space in the 21st century, and the part played by the internet in the altered ways we now think about communication and travel. It follows the life of Australian Laura, who lives a restless, rootless existence with no meaningful family ties or strong attachment to place, and of Sri Lankan Ravi, whose life is quite the opposite, and indeed has such an excess of meaning that it spills over into unimaginable violence and bewildering exile.
The novel pays particular attention to such contemporary concerns as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, and as the neoliberal attitudes and values that have crept into most areas of working life. Its wry, low-key wit is something that her fans will recognise from earlier novels. As with all accomplished novels of ideas, de Kretser uses her articulate, thinking characters as vehicles for her contemplation and intellectual dissection of the world.