Because of my current WIP, so many people asked me whether I’d read Delia Falconer’s The Service of Clouds (Picador Pan MacMillan 1997). I had not, but I’m so glad it was recommended to me. What an absolutely beautiful book. A novel of luminous prose, evocative imagery and language so precise and captivating that I found myself stopping to re-read many sentences, many times, to inhale their beauty.
Set in the early 1900’s in the Blue Mountains, the novel is narrated by Eureka Jones, a pharmacist’s assistant, who falls in love with photographer Harry Kitchings. Harry is mesmerised by clouds and captures many different cloud forms in a sort of photographic madness. Rather infuriatingly, he seems unaware of Eureka’s interest, or is he a bit afraid of the independence and strength she represents?
The vastness and beauty of the mountains is encapsulated in every page; the intricate and whimsical patterns of clouds in every chapter; the passion and determination of Eureka in every sentence. As the story traverses the health-giving waters of Katoomba, the harsh reality of tuberculosis, and Harry’s persistent dream of capturing the perfect clouds, we travel with Eureka as she matures from a naïve young girl to a more experienced and knowing woman who must live with the restraints of the time, the rebuff of her longings, the discovery of physical desire and the many disappointments of unrequited love.
Although there is a great plot and interesting characters, this is a novel that can be read solely for the appreciation of the language. Every line sings off the page. Every placement of words into a sentence or phrase feels magical and wondrous. If you enjoy gorgeous writing, this then debut (!) novel will blow you away.