Review: The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

 

Title: The Place on Dalhousie

Author: Melina Marchetta

Published: April 2nd 2019, Viking

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin

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My Thoughts:

If you are familiar with award winning author Melina Marchetta you will delight in revisiting familiar characters from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son in The Place on Dalhousie.

If you are not, you will be charmed by the characters you meet, and eager to devour Marchetta’s backlist when you have finished this wonderfully touching novel of home, family and friendship.

After Rosie Gennaro and Jimmy Hailler cross paths and enjoy a brief fling while travelling through Queensland, neither expect to see one another again, but fifteen months later, Jimmy learns Rosie has given birth to his son.

Rosie has reluctantly returned to the house on Dalhousie Street in Sydney, the home she once shared with her family, before her mother succumbed to cancer, before her father’s sudden death, but in which now her hated stepmother, Martha resides, to raise her son.

The house on Dalhousie is more than just a home to Rosie, it is all she has left of everything she has lost. As far as she is concerned Martha, despite being the legal owner of the house, is an interloper with no legitimate claim. The two live together as if strangers, Marta is no more fond of her sullen stepdaughter than Rosie is of her. Marchetta explores this complicated relationship, and it’s progression, thoughtfully.

Rosie is an abrasive character, consumed by anger, guilt and bitterness connected to her mother’s illness, her father’s remarriage, and his sudden death. I found it difficult to like her initially, she comes across as a self involved brat, but slowly, for the sake of her son, she begins to relax her defences. The author’s development of Rosie feels authentic, the change in her is gradual, and realistically limited.

Jimmy’s entry into the tense and awkward situation at the Dalhousie house is a catalyst to soften the enmity between Rosie and Martha. Having been abandoned by his own parents, Jimmy, though hesitant, is determined know his son and meet his responsibilities. I quickly grew very fond of Jimmy, who has had a difficult and far from blameless life, but who is decent and loyal. Jimmy’s friendships with his high school mates are his anchor, and give him support as he grapples with the uncertainty of his future.

For all the authenticity of Marchetta’s characters, and their stories, in The Place on Dalhousie there is the lightest touch of magical realism, a coincidence that closes a circle in a way that could have felt melodramatic, but instead felt right and true.

A beguiling story of loneliness and connection, of home, of family and friendship, of belonging, The Place on Dalhousie is a captivating novel, I was smiling so widely during the last chapter my cheeks hurt.

 

Read an Extract

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