Saturday, June 20, 2015

Leap, by Myfanwy Jones

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Myfanwy Jones's second novel, Leap, is a story about grief written in an energetic, realistic tone. It is intimate and true to life.

Leap is the second novel from Melbourne writer Myfanwy Jones. It tells two parallel stories in a somewhat grittily realistic tone. Joe, in his early twenties, is living behind a laundromat in inner city Melbourne with two of his friends, Sanjay and Jack. When a nurse moves into a spare room at the back of their place, Joe starts up a rather non-committal relationship with her. To pay the rent Joe works odd jobs in hospitality, but has half hearted hopes of becoming a sports teacher. In his spare time he likes to practice parkour – running, jumping and leaping off urban buildings, bridges and whatever else comes in his way.

It's easy to see that Joe's frenetic running and jumping is an emotional escape strategy. Three years previously he lost his girlfriend, Jen, in a tragic accident. The grief still clings to him. His casual affair with the nurse (we never learn her name) appears to be just another way to dull the pain.

In another narrative, a middle aged woman named Elise visits the Melbourne zoo to paint the tigers. She too is grieving the loss of someone. Painting the tigers is her one real solace, a time she gets to push her troubles away momentarily.

The main pleasure in this novel is its readability and energy. The main subject matter is grief, so you'd expect the tone to be more static and introspective. The narrative, however, has a very kinetic quality. It's Joe's story that takes up most of the novel, so we get the quick pace of a young man moving deftly amongst work, friends and family. The main trick of Leap is the dizzying descriptions of Joe's practising parkour, the passages detailing Joe swinging, vaulting and jumping. These are skillfully done and don't intrude too much into the story, evading the risk of it looking too gimmicky. The two storylines are also nicely tied up in the end, making the novel whole.

For residents of inner city Melbourne, it's a special treat to see your favourite suburbs given the literary touch. Otherwise this is a sad and affecting story about loss. You really feel the grief clinging to you as you read and sympathise with the personal suffering of the characters. This is writing that is intimate and true to life.

Leap, by Myfanwy Jones. Published by Allen and Unwin. ISBN: 9781925266115  RRP: $26.99

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