Joanna Baker – The Slipping Place

Impact Press, an imprint of Ventura Press, Australia, 2017

Joanna Baker will be at the Terror Australis Festival in Cygnet, Tasmania, from 31 October to 3 November 2019

This is a story about motherly love and family, clothed in a dark tale of violence, betrayals and secrets. We are taken deeply into the lives of two women, friends Veronica, an artist, and Lesley, a gallerist.

Whilst the story could well have been called ‘Looking for Roland’, as much of the novel has Veronica in search of her elusive son, its title The Slipping Place holds a much greater meaning than its role as the name of a place the women visited with their sons during their childhood.

Joanna Baker talks to Barbie about The Slipping Place

Joanna Baker so effectively drowns us in the fug of Veronica’s increasingly anxious, confused and frustrated brain that we are almost screaming to be let out. Everything is shrouded in secrets from long ago, which are gradually and painfully unveiled. At times we feel that we are caught up in some horrific video game and yet in the midst of strange and unnatural characters, there is a thread of normality with Veronica’s circle of friends and her pragmnatic if distracted daughter, Georgie.

The other dominating theme is cruelty to children, both in the form of physical and psychological abuse and by imparting to children a sense that they are unworthy or somehow falling short of expectations. The constant obfuscation, obstruction and lies are designed to keep Veronica off the track, and they do this for us also as readers, as we grapple with the fragmentary evidence in search of the truth of the story.

There is a deep consciousness here that the wounds of childhood run deep and are not always fixable. The notion of deceptive appearances is strongly developed and part of the entanglement and confusion in which we spend much of this novel searching, along with our unlikely heroine and investigator Veronica,  for truth.

That we finish the story with a sense of hopefulness, a belief in the capacity of the human spirit to pvercome and transcend is testament to Joanna Baker’s skill as a story weaver.