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by Mireille Juchau

THE WORLD WITHOUT US by Mireille Juchau

Atmospheric, elegiac and gripping, The World Without Us, is a story of secrets and survival, family and community, loss and renewal.

It has been six months since Tess Müller stopped speaking. Her silence is baffling to her parents, her teachers and her younger sister, but the more urgent mystery for both girls is where their mother, Evangeline, goes each day, pushing an empty pram and returning home wet, muddy and disheveled.

Their father, struggling with his own losses, tends to his apiary and tries to understand why his bees are disappearing. But after he discovers a car wreck and human remains on their farm, old secrets emerge to threaten the fragile family.

One day Tess’s teacher Jim encounters Evangeline by the wild Repentance River. Jim is in flight from his own troubles in Sydney, and Evangeline, raised in a mountain commune and bearing the scars of the fire that destroyed it, is a puzzle he longs to solve.

As the rainforest trees are felled and the lakes fill with run-off from the expanding mines, Tess watches the landscape of her family undergo shifts of its own. A storm is coming and the Müllers are in its path.

"Not since Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children have I read such an engrossing depiction of family life—though I hasten to say this is a very different kind of family, as tender as it is formidable, caught in unnameable griefs and silences." - Gail Jones

"…a bright, bracing marvel of a book…For all the broader ecological intelligence brought to bear by its author, for all the ironic feints and intricate narrative craft involved in the tale’s unfolding, The World Without Us is a work that never cedes the centrality of the human in its efforts to transmit some big-­picture wisdom. It is a book that reminds us that even a single death can fall like an apocalypse on those left behind…[Juchau's] prose, too, is a marvel of balance: witty and sensual, self-aware but not jaded, and capable of making poetry from anything…" - Geordie Williamson, The Australian

"…one of the finest novels I’ve read this year: a lyrical story of secrets and grief that reveals itself in a finely structured honeycomb…Currents and cross currents flow through every system of nature and society in Juchau’s world: the river, where Jim first sees Evangeline and joins her in the fast running waters; among the bees, where production is slowing. And within the community, where much is unsaid. Tess is drawn with especially fine sensitivity and affection, on the cusp of adolescence, struggling to understand how adults navigate the world." - Caroline Baum, Booktopia

"From the opening pages of Mireille Juchau’s new novel…we know we are in the hands of a poetic writer in control of language and ready to invest every sentence with resonant detail…Like her brilliant earlier novel, Burning In (2007), this novel addresses the grief of several characters who have lost family members, and it offers language and art as partial consolation." - Susan Lever, Australian Book Review

"Juchau is, obviously, a formidable talent that is capable of performing the literary alchemy of transforming what, with other writers, might have remained the dead weight of leaden formula fiction…Juchau’s achievement: the poise, wit, sensitivity and also the complexity of her writing. The World Without Us is an impressive, memorable novel, the work of a writer in command of her craft." - Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald

"After reading The World Without Us you could turn the book over and start again…Poignant and sad, yet poetic and uplifting, it’s truly a novel of its time. The World Without Us touches on infidelity, love, loss and grief but also healing, hope and what it means to be human in the contemporary world." - Cheryl Akle, Better Reading

"Juchau’s prose is a thing of wonder. It’s the perfect mix of poetry and restraint…In The World Without Us, Juchau treats us to the shadows of many souls. She reminds us that life itself has a force that is difficult to suppress." - The Saturday Paper

"Juchau’s writing is lilting and poetic. She has a painterly eye; her descriptions of the natural environment are as finely wrought as her observation of human interactions." - Thuy On, The Age

"Juchau enthralls with the beauty and poetry of her language, her wit, and the sense of mystery shrouding her characters. Juchau’s subtle exploration of her themes…her complex characters, her mastery in creating suspense, her use of bees as central metaphor and symbol…the vivid and original descriptions she gives everyday objects and the landscape all contribute to making Juchau a master of the literary novel." - Annette Marfording, Newtown Review of Books

Mireille Juchau is a Sydney-based writer of novels, short fiction, essays, scripts and reviews. Her third novel, The World Without Us is published internationally by Bloomsbury in Australia in August 2015, the UK and US in 2016. Her second novel, Burning In (Giramondo Publishing, 2007), was published in France – Le révélateur (Mercure de France, 2012) and Croatia – Potamanjivanje (Hrvatsko filolosko, 2013).

In Australia Burning In was shortlisted for the 2008 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Age Book of the Year Award and the Nita B. Kibble Award. Mireille’s first novel Machines for Feeling (University of Queensland Press, 2001) was shortlisted for the 1999 Vogel/Australian Literary Award.

Mireille’s short fiction, plays, art reviews and essays have appeared in international and Australian anthologies and journals including the Times Literary Supplement, Picador New Writing 4, Meanjin, Heat Magazine and The New Orleans Review. She has a PhD in writing and literature and teaches at universities and in the community.



The Times:

Kate Saunders

TheWorldWithout Us

by Mireille Juchau

Bloomsbury, 293pp

Ł16.99 * Ł14.99

The Müller family is being destroyed by grief, while their community in the Australian outback is being destroyed by developers. The Müllers are first presented, in this powerful and poetic novel, as wreckage.

The mother, Evangeline, wanders off every day, pushing an empty pram. The father, Stefan, cannot get his wife to talk to him or touch him. Tess, aged 13, has not spoken for six months; Meg, her younger sister, is getting tired of being her interpreter. When the layers are peeled back, however, the strangeness of the Müllers starts to look a lot less puzzling; six months ago, Pip, the baby of the family, died of leukaemia and we are meeting them in the immediate aftershock. The death of her child is forcing Evangelina to revisit her first encounter with tragedy, years before.

She grew up in a hippy commune called The Hive (bee metaphors are everywhere you look in this story) and is still covered with scars from the night it mysteriously burnt to the ground. But then Stefan, who came to the commune as an idealistic German hippy, makes a grisly discovery on his farm — a burntout car and human remains. So what really happened? The slow unfolding of the truth, layer after layer, is superbly done; though this novel is too classy to pigeonhole as a thriller, it has all the pace and invention of the classic thriller. What makes it unforgettable is Juchau’s sensitive portrayal of a family poleaxed by grief.

THE WORLD WITHOUT US has won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Fiction. http://www.wheelercentre.com/projects/victorian-premier-s-literary-awards-2016

I’ve recently sent some of the UK reviews. Attached are the reviews from the two most important Australian critics

Andrew Riemer on Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us

I want to end by stressing Juchau's achievement: the poise, wit, sensitivity and also the complexity of her writing. The World Without Us is an impressive, memorable novel, the work of a writer in command of her craft.

Geordie Williamson on Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us

Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us is too warmly engaged with the human to be a ‘climate change’ novel, too coolly cerebral to be mistaken for another middlebrow story of love gone awry. It is, however, a sensual, intelligent, mindful book about the ways in which our individual stories mesh with larger narratives of nature and world. Read it for its vivid descriptions of the emerald green North of coastal NSW – or else read it for its anthropological insights into the eccentric post-hippy communities of that area vs. the self regarding bourgeoisie of Sydney’s inner ‘burbs. But note: these easy joys are shadowed by something darker and richer. I found it a symbolically loaded and exquisitely written novel about a society at the end of its psychological and ecological tether.