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Review: Lovesong by Alex Miller

lovesong Review: Lovesong by Alex Miller

She recognised in this resistance the sentiment of her grandmothers songs; the wisdom of the old women.

pastry Review: Lovesong by Alex Miller

Alex Miller is a British-born Australian author known for his stunning literary fiction. Multiple winner of the prestigious Miles Franklin award, Miller is well known for quiet literary fiction that focuses heavily on place and how people relate to and identify with it.

Miller has sort of been on the periphery of my literary awareness for a while now, but it wasnt until the prepublication buzz for Lovesong that I really started to hear about him (yes, yes, shameful, I know). The Age ran a fascinating article about him that piqued my interest, and when The Book Show interviewed him about the novel, I was determined to get my mitts on it. (Well, when it was released in paperback, that is, since my budget laughs in the face of fancy trade paperbacks).

I did, it turns out, manage to get my hands on a copy of it via a competition run through publisher Allen & Unwin. Im proud to say that Im now the owner of a signed, numbered edition of the book. And also that I sat down on Monday evening, when it arrived in the post, and read the whole lot in one go.

And my goodness, what a breathless, beautiful read it is. I should note that Millers style takes some getting used to initially, as it exists in a strange mixture of limpidity and withdrawal, but that in time, this novel is like a hungry rip, drawing you in and away.'Lovesong is a story within a story, with the namesake lovesong of the novel being that told to an author who has decided to retire from writing.

The book is framed in terms of novelist Ken, who has returned from overseas to find that the local drycleaners has been replaced by a pastry shop run by a Tunisian woman whose story Ken cannot help but seek out, despite his gradual moving away from his literary world. Ken develops a friendship with the Tunisian womans husband, and the story is slowly spun out for our contemplation.

Lovesong is a vivid, exquisite work. 'It is a series of nested relationships that need to be picked apart like Russian matryoshki dolls. The reader is pinballed between the past and present in the search for answers to the mysteries that slowly, languidly come to the fore. We hear of Sahibas desperate desire for a child, and her lingering inability to conceive, but this is contrasted with the present day, with her childs quiet presence in the pastry shop. There is the contrast between Paris in Melbourne, and the yawning space and time between the two. Strange little curiosities like these compound until, like Ken, we are yearning to scratch away at the layers of this story as though it is a sgraffito piece.

The pull of Lovesong is not simply teasing out the ribbons of the relationship between Sahiba and her husband John, but also watching Ken, who is drawn back into his authorial role despite claiming that is most recent novel, Farewell, is exactly that. Lovesong is not simply a story of love and desire, but it is also one of place and identity, and its a fascinating one at that.

 Review: Lovesong by Alex Miller

Purchase Lovesong.

Other reviews of Lovesong.

Other books by Alex Miller you might like: The Ancestor Game; Prochowniks Dream.

Forthcoming reviews: The Drowning Girl by Margaret Leroy (literary,'women's fiction); Yesterdays Houses by Mavis Cheek (women's fiction; mainstream)

Acknowledgements: pastry image by Daniel St.Pierre, courtesy of


  1. I love the idea of this blogand how much fun it is to read a book in one sitting! Especially one that sounds this good thanks!

    • Thanks very much, Melissa. Ill see what I can do about putting up a review of some of your books over the coming weeks. Its a bit difficult to get a hold of the Alex Miller book outside of Australia, unfortunately (Amazon doesnt host it), but theres a link to independent Aussie bookshop Readings in the post if you wanted to pick up a copy. I think Ive linked to the special edition, but there is a regular one, too.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

  2. Jess P /

    Im so glad you loved this book, I didnt expect to like it much (I thought it sounded kind of ultra-literary) but its actually so incredibly readable and moving. All hail Alex Miller!

    • I actually read the first chapter of it in Borders a while ago, and was a little disappointed, to be honest. Id listened to a great interview with Miller on the Book Show, so I think Id probably very much hyped it up in my head. It took me a while to get used to the writing style, but my goodness, when I did, I ploughed through the novel. If anything, I expected it to be more literary (Im a sucker for super long sentences)!