Review: A Constant Hum by Alice Bishop, by Shelley Carter

Title: A Constant Hum
Author: Alice Bishop
Format: Short stories
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2019

A Constant Hum is a collection of short stories all relating to the Black Saturday bushfires that tore through the Victorian bush in 2009. Split into three sections, Prevailing, Southerly and Northerly, the book brings the reader increasingly closer to the inferno until we are in the midst of the tragedy.

Alice Bishop expertly captures not only the sights and smells of a bushfire, but also the human impact a disaster such as this one can have on the survivors. Trauma lasts a lifetime, and we witness the small, often overlooked aspects of grief and overcoming loss. Each story offers a different perspective; whether that be the point of view of a teenager who has lost his entire family, or of a woman who resorts to kleptomania as a means of coping with her trauma – each story is unique yet impactful.

The longer stories are interspersed with small vignettes, sometimes only a few sentences long. These short pieces are like a punch to the gut, and in just one paragraph Bishop managed to reduce me to tears. Eliciting emotion from the reader in such a way is a true testament to the strength of the author.

Heartbreaking and timely, A Constant Hum is a remarkable work that details the personal impact of destructive natural disasters. Alice Bishop is an incredible force of modern Australian storytelling, and I highly recommend this work; it would be the ideal holiday read. Perhaps on a beach in Hawaii, while you avoid all responsibilities.

 

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