Review: Entitlement by Jessica White

Title: Entitlement

Author: Jessica White

Published: Penguin Australia August 2012

Synopsis: Eight years after the mysterious disappearance of her much-loved brother Eliot, Cate McConville finally returns to the family farm – only to discover her ageing parents want to sell it and sever her only remaining link to him. Forced back to the landscape of her childhood Cate is haunted by memories of Eliot and all that has kept her away. Determined to find her brother and retain the property, she enlists the help of family friend Mellor, her aunt Natalie, and Finchley, the man who has followed her from Sydney on a whim. All have secrets of their own to hide, but Cate senses it’s the land itself that holds the key to unlocking Eliot’s fate, and the part of her that went with him. Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from August 21 to 22, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin Australia}

My Thoughts:

Entitlement explores the grief, bitterness and anger of loss and estrangement. Eight years ago Eliot went missing and now his sister, Cate McConville, refuses to allow her parents to sell the family property while a chance remains that her brother may one day come home.

Cate’s obsession with her brother’s disappearance has had a detrimental affect on every facet of her life. While I was sympathetic to her overwhelming sense of loss, I found her largely selfish, cold and bitter. Her lack of empathy for others, particularly her mother, is disturbing, though perhaps is more understandable in terms of her relationship with her father. Only the glimpses of Cate as a child and teen showing her close bond with her brother offer some sense of redemption, yet even then, there is a subtle current of self centeredness in their relationship. I found I grew increasingly frustrated by Cate failure to acknowledge her own contribution to the dysfunctional family dynamics.

The relationships within this family are central to this story. Cate’s father, Blake, is almost wholly unlikeable. Though I did feel some pity for him because of his current physical pain, I was appalled by his racism and his attitude towards his daughter. Nora, Cate’s mother, seems weak in the face of the behaviour of her husband and daughter. Elliot largely remains an enigma through out the novel with only Cate’s memories giving him life. He has been missing eight years when the novel begins, simply walking away one morning with no further trace. What specifically kept me reading Entitlement was my desire to know Eliot’s fate and I found I developed several theories as to why Eliot would disappear as the novel progressed.

Loss is the major theme of Entitlement explored not only within the McConville family, but also within the indigenous mob that lives on the fringes of the family property. Mellor, the McConville family’s longtime farmhand, has a family history defined by loss, from the loss of his tribe’s native land and culture to the forcible removal of aboriginal children from their parents. This element is a significant aspect of the story.

Told in the third person, at times I found the way the narrative segues from the present to memory with little warning disconcerting. The pace of the novel is measured yet White skillfully sustains the suspense throughout the story, despite the lack of urgency in the plot. I thought the tone stylish with evocative descriptions of the Australian landscape and it’s people.

Though there is closure for the McConvilles’s, and Mellor’s mob, there is no happy ending. Entitlement is a profound, sober novel that I found thought provoking and interesting.

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About the Author

Jessica White was raised in the country in northwestern NSW.  Her first novel, A Curious Intimacy, was published by Penguin in 2007, and won a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist award in 2008.  It was shortlisted for the Dobbie and Western Australia Premier’s awards, and longlisted for the IMPAC award.  An Australian Society of Authors mentorship also assisted Jessica with writing this novel. Jessica has been deaf since she was nearly four, when meningitis left her with a 75% hearing loss.  Finding listening a struggle, she became an avid reader and naturally gravitated towards writing.  She has never allowed her disability to hinder her, completing a PhD at the London Consortium, University of London in 2009 with the aid of the Sir Arthur Sims Travelling Scholarship from the University of Melbourne.  She currently works part-time as a research assistant in Brisbane, while writing her third novel and a book of creative non-fiction.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mystica
    Aug 23, 2012 @ 15:01:42

    I don’t mind the not happy ending as long as there is one. I dislike when a story leaves you hanging wondering what has happened.

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  2. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Aug 25, 2012 @ 17:51:28

    This one sounds like a challenging read. I’m hit and miss with unsympathetic protagonists, so this may or may not be something I’d enjoy!

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