Her Sister’s Eye

Her Sister’s Eye – Mixed Media

by Vivienne Cleven

(University of Queensland Press. ISBN 0 7022 32831)

The Australian outback town of Mundra is plagued by its history of disappearances and suspicion. Its streets echo with rumours of murder and atrocities, and its people are scarred by the oppression of its indigenous people. The earth itself seems to have been made barren by the events that once took place there.

Into this town young indigenous writer Vivienne Cleven gathers characters that range from the wandering savant Archie Corella, who remembers nothing of his past but his name and whose face has been left horrifically scarred by some hidden event, to Sofie, a woman with the mind of a child who is a dangerous adversary yet an easy victim.

Cleven uses magical realism to heighten the novel’s disquieting sense of place and to explore the tensions of sexual predatoriness and racial menace in a trans-racial outback community. Not surprisingly, the novel charts a course through both indigenous issues and the role of women.

Her Sister’s Eye attempts to expose the mysteries of the past in order to render them harmless. The most moving moments are those where Cleven writes from the gut and it is here that she creates her most inventive passages and most liberating humour.

Like the town’s scarred earth, its lifeblood river both gives and takes. It provides some balance to the fire and the heat that come sweeping through in dust storms. The river also holds mixed memories for the characters, and functions as Sofie’s cathedral, where she talks to the fish.

There is a humanity and accuracy to Cleven’s writing that will richly reward readers who deal with the painful subject matter. This is a challenging novel.

Rating ***


REVIEWERS Peter Whittaker o Louise Gray o Malcolm Lewis. George Fisher




GOOD ***



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