Alayna Cole

Alayna Cole is an MCA (Creative Writing) candidate who loves to write stories when she’s not studying.

Jone_quietThere are some stories that leave a bittersweet hole inside you. For me, In the Quiet is one of them.

In the Quiet is a simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-warming story about Cate Carlton, who has recently died. She lingers near her family, watching, remembering, and through her eyes we see snippets of how her life once looked, how her family grieves and—eventually—how they begin to move on.

These snippets are part of what makes this novel so clever. Cate’s story is given to you a few pages, a few paragraphs, or a few lines at a time, and you move through a kaleidoscope of the past and present until you learn enough to piece together the story. This process feels organic, reflecting the way we think about our own lives, how one event can remind us of another, and how we don’t recall our memories chronologically.

You learn about each of the characters in a natural way, hearing stories of their past and future in equal measure until they seem rounded, deep, and complex. I could easily relate to aspects of each character: Cate’s love, Bass’s desire to protect his family, Jessa’s stubbornness, Rafferty’s teasing humour, Cameron’s sensitivity, and the ways of dealing with isolation, vulnerability, and loss demonstrated by each friend and family member. Empathising with each of these real and relatable characters was easy. Too easy.

I cried on-and-off through the last hundred pages of the book. Not because anything particularly devastating was happening—though, sometimes, that was also the case—but because I could see myself so clearly in each of the characters that even their minor turmoils and successes affected me. I quickly fell in love with these people, for their beauty and their flaws, and cared about what happened to them.

The interaction between the characters of In the Quiet feels as remarkably raw and honest as the characters themselves. How they talk to one another, how relationships change over time, and how feelings and connections are conveyed through actions more than words, reflects reality, as well as the novel’s title.

The title, In the Quiet, is referenced many times throughout the book, in the way characters sit in silence instead of speaking over dinner, the way Cate remembers not responding to a question asked while she was still alive, and the way she is now unable to speak to her family when she is desperate to. Cate’s husband Bass is said to have ‘the quiet’ in him as he sits and stares soundlessly, with actions and feelings resonating with him more than words.

These carefully woven references are everywhere. The author, Eliza Henry Jones, is a master of foreshadowing. Every memory reveals something or adds something to the overall picture. Little hints slowly become larger stories, but characters never say too much. This restraint allows a patchwork to form like the fields where the novel is set.

In the Quiet depicts an image of country life that is easily one of my favourite literary interpretations of rural Australia. It never feels forced—as representations of the Australian outback sometimes can—with symbols and imagery as careful and deliberate as character development and plot progression. Both the country and city spaces, as well as the suburban inbetween, is made to seem beautiful and interesting in its own way, and the relationships between people and the spaces they inhabit are as important as the relationships between characters.

Everything about In the Quiet screams sophistication, so it’s hard to believe that this is Eliza Henry Jones’s debut novel. I’m holding my breath for her next masterpiece.


alayna coleHow long have you been writing for MDPWeb, why did you join the group, and what do you like about being part of it?

I’ve been writing occasional reviews and articles for MDPWeb for just over twelve months. I love having the opportunity to write pieces that are a little atypical compared to the average review, avoiding the formula so that I can delve more deeply into themes and ideas that I think are important.

What creative piece are you working on, and what author would you liken your work too?

I’m currently focusing primarily on a collection of short stories that forms part of my thesis. The stories are based on fairy tales that incorporate queer perspectives. I’m also always juggling a million other projects!

What book have you most enjoyed reviewing for MDPWeb?

My favourite book to review was probably Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, because I loved the opportunity to talk about the unreliable narration crafted so beautifully by one of my favourite authors.


What’s your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

What downtime? On top of my full-time study, I currently have six jobs to my name. Thankfully they’re all about my passion for writing, creating, and educating, so they often don’t feel like ‘work’. I’ve even figured out how to get paid for my videogame habit!

Is there somewhere else online/in bookstores we can find your work?

My work is all over the place. You can find links to all of my digital stuff—including stories, articles, and even videogames and interactive narratives—on my website: http://alaynamcole.com

What’s your favourite TV series?

This is a really difficult question that tends to change depending on what I’m marathon-watching at any given time. I recently watched season one of Sense8 and I think it has the potential of taking the top spot, but for now the winner is probably Scandal.

 Who or what is your current crush?

I’m currently crushing on Cara Delevingne!

Alayna Cole

Alayna Cole is an MCA (Creative Writing) candidate who loves to write stories when she’s not studying.

far-from-the-madding-crowd-film-2015-habitually-chic-001I was recently presented with the opportunity to watch a preview of Far from the Madding Crowd (Australia is slow, I’m sorry) and, when promised a period piece with feminist themes, I couldn’t refuse. I must preface this review by saying that it’s uncommon for me to watch a movie based on a book without first reading that book, but I am yet to read this famous Tom Hardy novel—I blame good intentions and a lack of time.

Time is my primary issue with Far from the Madding Crowd; the movie simply doesn’t use it well or, perhaps, doesn’t use enough. The entire film feels like an abridged version of a longer, more intricate story, jumping between key and well-known plot points without giving enough attention to character development. As such, the audience is unable to form a bond with Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors—Gabriel Oak the shepherd, William Boldwood the mature bachelor, and Frank Troy the sergeant—or become invested in the relationships that form between them. There are several moments in the movie where I knew a period of time had elapsed between scenes, but it was difficult to determine whether it had been days, or weeks, or even months. This stripped away the significance of each event and caused the story to lack suspense.

The rushed narrative wasn’t the only part of this movie that fell short for me. Early reviews suggested Far from the Madding Crowd was a feminist flick about an empowered female protagonist, but I was disappointed. The opening voiceover by Bathsheba—played by Carey Mulligan—and her refusal to ride side-saddle were a promising start, highlighting her wildness and independence in a time where women were expected to be subservient; however, when she turned down the first of several proposals by suggesting that, if she were to marry, it would be to someone who could tame her, I was bothered.

far from the maddingThis is the part of my review that will paint me as a raging feminist, but let me be clear: I’m not against romantic movies where a woman’s sole intent is to marry a man, particularly when those movies are set in a time when that was the societal norm. My disappointment doesn’t stem from Bathsheba’s apparently constant thoughts about men and marriage—contributed to by the movie condensing the events of the source material so that she doesn’t have time to think about other topics—but the fact that Bathsheba denies her interest in such things, claiming independence and female empowerment while failing to enact it.

On the surface, Bathsheba suggests that she could never belong in a world where women are deemed inferior to or different from men, but her actions conflict with this belief. Throughout the film she constantly requires reassurance and opinions from the predominantly male array of characters, particularly Gabriel. She frequently tells him that she needs him, not only for his farming expertise, but also for his ‘objective’ views about her personal decisions.

The scene where Gabriel leaves the Everdene Farm at Bathsheba’s insistence, only to find that she needs him to return to save their flock, has been altered for the movie in a way that further strips Bathsheba of the independence and empowerment she is supposed to exude. When Bathsheba sends another worker to ask for Gabriel to return, he insists that she ask herself; in the movie Bathsheba rides to see him and essentially begs for him to come back to the farm, while my research shows that in the book she simply writes him a letter. This change makes Bathsheba seem more desperate and less distant, sacrificing the character’s independence for the sake of the scene’s visual appeal.

Visuals are the one thing Far from the Madding Crowd does exceedingly well; it is a beautiful film. In the opening scene, the way shadow and light are used to frame Bathsheba is phenomenal. The costume choices carefully tread the line between period and modern, placing the story in a space connected to the source material while still relatable for a contemporary audience. Shots of picturesque landscapes are reminiscent of travel brochures, while images of manor interiors look as though they are taken directly from home décor magazines.

But, while Far from the Madding Crowd makes me want to pack my bags for England, sadly the scenery is not enough for me to forgive the movie’s shortcomings. The film felt rushed and, as a result, failed to construct complex characters or meaningful relationships. I look forward to reading the novel, as I’m certain its epic length will allow for the narrative depth and pacing that this film failed to achieve.

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

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