Cloudstreet illuminates a particular period of time in Australia’s history – moving from the end of WW2 to the early sixties, and conveys both the time and place magnificently in a way that will engage the reader instantly. Yes, it’s a great Australian novel, full of people and places that are both inherently part of their time and true to that space. Above all though, what elevates this book from a cracking good yarn to something that is great, is the magic. The book is rife with magic, so purely woven into the story you might miss it on a first reading. It’s a magic that comes straight from a love of humanity – a generous, funny magic that picks up on all that is truly beautiful, even amidst our flaws.
All sorts of amazing things happen in this book. There are dark ghosts, children who rise out of the ground, rivers that become sky and stars that embrace, a talking pig, a mysterious Aboriginal who walks on water, skin that glows, fish that jump out and fill a boat, a bird that poos coins. There is magic in the ordinary too – the magic of childbirth, of forgiveness, of love. The whole narrative structure is magical, bringing everything together in its striking conclusion.
Cloudstreet is a book that contains a world. It’s not just the world of the Pickles and the Lambs, compelling as that is. It’s the world of the reader. This is a book that is wonderful because it shines a light on who we are, lovingly, and with the kind of forgiving, all-inclusive care of a parent – it allows us to rejoice in ourselves.