Review - Closing Down, Sally Abbott
Compassionately and carefully constructed to be something quite precious, CLOSING DOWN is a novel that does not attempt to create an fantastical and unbelievable landscape of future Australia. Instead, it takes concerns already present in our current debate and presents their possible eventualities, some of these being the erosion of our national identity, the issue of climate change, and the strangulation of enterprise by unnecessarily pedantic overview and the repeated lashings of bureaucratic red tape. Presenting a possible composite result of where our cultural fears may lead us, CLOSING DOWN illustrates the concerns and divides of living in a country at the bottom of the world that faces unique challenges not only due to its geographic location and harsh environment, but also because of how it may be considered to be a soft target in the global community.
There are supernatural elements in this book that add curious little vignettes to the storylines of both Clare and Roberto. They shouldn't really work in the context of what is often a gritty slog through dread and dissolution but somehow they do. If you're seeking clarity throughout your read you may often be disappointed as the novel can often seem to be meandering about rather than moving purposefully.
The specifics of living in a such an narrowing society has altered the citizens living within its constraints. In CLOSING DOWN this has not only affected the behaviours of its people of its animals as well. As society erodes, the manic activity of centralization and conformity continues to charge senselessly ahead and the bewilderment experienced by the characters in this novel is both relatable and frightening. It's a huge testament to the author that all the ingredients included in this book have not resulted in a work so bleak that there appears to be no way free of its gloom. Somewhere between the governmental guidelines are lives continuing to be lived in CLOSING DOWN, largely in ignorance, and increasingly in fear, but being lived regardless.
Rural Australia is both developing and narrowing. The selling out of Australia to foreign interests has resulted in multitudes of country towns closing down and officially ceasing to exist. Centralizing the displaced has become the solution to the increasing shortage of food and resources. Generational land ownership comes to a forced end, and for the residents of the bush communities, the country of their birth is becoming unrecognizable.
Clare is eking out an existence in country Myamba, dependent upon her government rations and the small routines of her domestic life. She hasn't yet joined the walkers, the homeless who drift from town to town, but her night time activities have her crossing paths with their increasing ranks. Clare's husband continues to wallowing in his despair and their rented property will shortly be taken away from them. Clare must think of somewhere to go where she will be safe.
Robbie and Ella's lives are lived in snatches of time between work trips, and their careers increasingly reveal to them the insanity at work behind the facades of government and large corporations. People just don't behave like they used to. Robbie longs to return home but isn't sure that Myamba holds the answers either to the disintegration of kind society that he is witnessing.