ISABELLE THE NAVIGATOR by Luke Davies

ISABELLE THE NAVIGATOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Young woman adrift on a sea of sophomoric philosophy.

Australian poet and second-novelist Davies (Candy, 1998) gives marine and freshwater metaphors quite a workout in this overly poetic coming-of-ager, moving from the sun-kissed beaches of Down Under to the stormy Atlantic and pausing for a stroll beside the Seine, whose flow inevitably (though inexplicably) reminds the brooding heroine of the lover who died in a motorcycle accident. Yes, Isabelle Airly has a lot to brood about: she’s a child of the fast-and-loose ’70s, still struggling to understand the reasons for her mother’s not-exactly-clandestine affair with Uncle Dan, her husband’s brother. Perhaps that’s why she floats in and out of relationships like a commitment-phobic guppy. And perhaps her mother’s affair was the reason her gentle, introspective physician father was jailed for bilking Medicare out of thousands of dollars and later committed suicide. Isabelle figures that he felt he just wasn’t as much of a man as Dan, a hearty, nonintrospective butcher in a bloodstained work-coat. Now, with nothing much to do, 22-year-old Isabelle gets high and watches a lot of undersea documentaries that spawn (sorry) still more oceanic epiphanies, thrilling to the knowledge that there is “a moment approaching orgasm when thought and emotion are stripped of all structure and form in a change as pervasive as the chromatic thermonuclear pulse of a cuttlefish coupling.” And she does her damnedest to hit that high as often as possible in order to feel connected to the world, however briefly. She and her lover “writhe together as if liquid,” but the pleasure is apparently only fleeting. Moving on to a lesbian affair with a Portuguese merchant marine captain still doesn’t scratch her constant urge to merge, though a tacked-on epilogue catches up with her several years later, happily married and heavily pregnant with her second child and feeling as if she is moving forward on an endless sea, at the prow of a ship . . . .

Soggy and silly.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2002
ISBN: 0-425-18604-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002