From the Blurb:
“Strange what chooses to flourish here. Which plants. Which stories.
Bettina Scott lives a tidy, quiet life in Runagate, tending to her delicate mother and their well-kept garden after her father and brothers disappear – until a note arrives that sends Bettina into the scrublands beyond, searching for answers about what really happened to this town, and to her family.
For this is a land where superstitions hunt and folk tales dream – and power is there for the taking, for those willing to look.”
From my 2020 Halloween reading list, I read the gothic folklore novella Flyaway by Australian author Kathleen Jennings. This was an unexpected gem of a book, evoking the haunting beauty of the Australian landscape.
When first introduced to the protagonist of Flyaway, Bettina Scott seems a sheltered young woman caring for her frail mother. But there’s a darkness lurking beneath the surface, Bettina’s behaviour and cautious treatment by those living in town hint they fear her mother. Soon a dark mystery begins to unearth itself and things about Bettina, the town of Runagate, the Scott family and events of several decades earlier start to surface.
Bettina clearly has gaps in her own memory and the circumstances to her father’s disappearance and those of her brothers are just the most recent attempts to forget those who have disappeared. But as we are told, disappearances aren’t unusual in Runagate, and all seem fearful of the wilderness beyond the boundaries of the town. A mysterious note lures Bettina back into her past and forces her to uncover the truth about herself, her family, the history of Runagate and the dark reality of what she and others have tried to keep buried beyond the tidy limits of the town.
Flyaway combined elements of traditional gothic folklore with the unique Australian landscape that was reminiscent to me of descriptions early explorers provided of the Australian wilderness. The harsh and haunting beauty of the natural world is a constant throughout the story, the characters seem equally caught between the past and the present and like the land around them, are products of the past, the effects still visible like scars.
Beautifully written, haunting and magical. A must-read for lovers of gothic folklore or Australian fantasy.