The Fern Tattoo
By David Brooks
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Evidently she knew who I was, or thought she did, since I had apparently needed no introduction and certainly hadn't received one... She told stories. One could almost say she rushed into them, on the merest of pretexts, as if the world was ending very shortly and they had to be got through before it happened. A century of family secrets starts to unravel when Benedict Waters is summoned to an audience with an old friend of his mother. He is seduced by her storytelling and it takes time and an astonishing revelation before he realises that it is his own family he has been hearing about, his own life that is being undone. From the Blue Mountains to the Hawkesbury and from Sydney to the south coast of New South Wales, The Fern Tattoo takes us on a kaleidoscopic journey through several generations of three families. We meet a range of extraordinary characters including a bigamist bishop, a librarian tattooed from neck to knee, a young girl who kills her best friend in a tragic shooting accident and a pair of lovers who live each other's lives for years after they have separated. As with all families, there are lost loves, tragic passions and unspoken - sometimes unspeakable - histories. The Fern Tattoo is a beguiling novel about the certainty of fate and the randomness of love that announces David Brooks' return as one of Australia's most distinctive literary novelists.