The first chapters of Currawalli Street plod along slowly. Not in a drab, laborious way but in a smooth rhythmic manner like the clip-clop of a horse’s hooves as it wanders slowly up a dirt track. The author’s style of writing is lyrical and evocative. I was none too surprised to hear that the author Christopher Morgan is a musician, however he made an amazing foray into the literary world after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The slow pace of the country seeps through the beginning of the book even though it is set in a suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne. However it is a Melbourne very different to today’s big city. Envisage Melbourne in 1914 before the outbreak of The Great War. Currawalli Street is innocent and calm. The book has a natural flow – a slow introduction with a fair quantity of characters, and insights into their lives and their secrets. There is a very strong sense of neighbourly involvement and a marked sense of community. There is very distinct change of pace in the story when one character announces his intention to volunteer to enlist. The local publican hangs the man’s personalised beer mug on a hook screwed into the wall and remarks “I’ll take it down when you get back. The first beer you drink from it will be on the house”. The uncertainty that comes with war is expressed beautifully “The clouds sitting heavily on the horizon seem to signify sad departrues…..”
The second half of the book is set in the post Vietnam War era. The story spans six decades and three generations of Currawalli Street residents. Despite changes through the eras the generations are still connected and the essence of humanity remains ever constant. You have to pay attention though to know who is who in the character assortment. This narrative observes, listens and unveils that just about everyone has a secret. The novel does not set out to resolve each of these issues. Some are just left unresolved and they exist just like the current residents and the ghosts of the residents past, to walk in the sunshine and shadows that are cast upon Currawalli Street. An enchanting story.