Best- selling Australian author Di Morrissey has brought her talents of capturing the essence of Australia’s states, territories, cities and towns to Tasmania in her new novel Arcadia. The title is borrowed from the mythological Arcadia, a place of unspoilt wilderness. Perhaps no better name could have been chosen for a novel about Tasmania and perhaps no novel has reminded us on the steps we must take to keep our ‘Arcadia’.
Di’ wants Australia to keep all its Arcadias and tells me she is active at her home in Sydney’s Northshore in doing her best to see a semblance of ‘green’ is ever present and not lost to progress. Di realises that ‘green’ whether it be a park or a forest has many benefits for our health. Proof enough can be seen in the tourists that are drawn to Australia for this connection even if it is just being photographed near a tree which sadly might be scarce in their own country. Di discovered in Tasmania how entering a forest can provide physical improvement but also provide calm and healing to the emotions. For these reasons Di says this book is timely.
The book had its origins in September and October of 2017 when Di braved the reasonably colder Tassie weather rented a car and with the aid of friends covered the whole island in four weeks, in what she terms was a ‘wonderful magical visit’ in which she encountered the usual first class food and drink and the unique characters of the hills and dales of the state.
Arcadia moves between present day adventures of lifelong friends Jess and Sally. Jess, a scientist jaded from a relationship breakdown in the big smoke to reassessing her life by returning to her birthplace in Tasmania to reconnect with her best friend Sally, who remained in Tasmania and settled into domesticity. The two become their own version of ‘Thelma and Louise’ as they discover artifacts of Sally’s artist grandmother Stella and begin to put the mystery of her life together. Permeating the book is the motif and the presence of an owl, representing an ancient wisdom that Stella was privy to.
A discovery of a potentially life-saving plant in the Tasmanian forest is recorded by Stella in her paintings, brilliantly linking art and science and how they can work together for the betterment and survival of humankind, just as science and art are combined in Di’s book to shed light on a serious topic and how we can preserve not only things for their beauty but also for their life-saving attributes.
Arcadia is out now published by Pan Macmillan Australia.