This thesis consists of two components – a novel, Just Getting Light, and an exegesis, The Railway Librarian.
Set in Thirroul, on the south coast of New South Wales, Just Getting Light follows Anikka Lachlan, a young woman widowed by the accidental death of her husband, Mac, a railway man. As part of her compensation for this accident, she is offered – and accepts – the job of librarian at the local Railway Institute Library.
At the heart of the novel are three points of resonance: Thirroul, the south-coast sea-side village where D. H. Lawrence wrote Kangaroo and where Anikka Lachlan lives; “Angel,” a poem discovered by Ani after her husband’s death that she takes to have been written by him for her; and 1948, a watershed year in the clear-view of hindsight, and a year with its own literary reflection in George Orwell’s 1984.
The Railway Librarian, an exegesis, considers these three elements in a series of essays that not only documents some of the research and reading that fed into Just Getting Light but also explores the two-way shuffle between discovery and imagination, and the nexus that exists between grief and memory, war and time.
In unravelling ideas about places and their names, the first essay, “Place”, seeks to unravel the book’s place itself, as both a lived environment and a literary one. The second essay, “Poetry”, explores the connections between the book’s defining emotion – grief – and the inspiration behind one of its most crucial plot points – a discovered poem. In the final essay, “Time”, the interplay between time, war and memory is examined alongside the necessary abbreviations and amalgamations memory makes to accommodate the temporal in both living and writing.