I am finally returning to my blog with a review – again, this was a book sent to me by new books mag and this review was written for them and appears on their website. I would urge anyone to consider subscribing as I remain amazed and grateful at being consistently introduced to novels I am quite sure I would not otherwise have come across, a very good thing for readers and writers alike.
Told entirely from the viewpoint of Australian piano manufacturer Frank Delage as he makes his way back home from Vienna by sea, The Voyage explores the inner workings of a middle aged man who has failed in his mission to introduce new technology to a country steeped in tradition. As he mulls over his thwarted ambition he is forced to consider his own role in the debacle and the consequences of allowing himself to become extricated with the aristocratic von Schallas.
Bail is an esteemed Australian writer, known for his elegant exposition of the complexity of character and The Voyage is a fine example of his skill in this area. It is a novel of contrasts, pitting new against old and the unequivocal straightforward individual against a wall of ingrained social customs and etiquette. It is also a novel about the pressures of family expectations and the struggle to know yourself and to remain independent without feeling guilty. The only character that seems able to manage this is the von Schallas nubile young daughter Elisabeth, which discomfits Delage as this attribute both repels and attracts him.
It is a challenging read as the thoughts of Delage are represented directly, as he thinks them, so leap from Vienna, to his life before his misadventure, to the voyage itself and back again repeatedly and often within the same sentence. One thought sparks off another, sometimes related and sometimes not and this is maintained throughout but while the style is complicated the language is not so once you have found the rhythm of the prose it begins to feel surprisingly natural. If you favour an idiosyncratic approach to writing and are drawn to character over plot The Voyage is worth persevering with.