The Engagement is a novel by Australian author Chloe Hooper. I was lucky enough to win this novel at Naomi’s blog and I was really excited about it. Sadly, the book didn’t turn out the success both Naomi and I thought it would be. However, I would like to thank her for running the giveaway.
From Goodreads (excerpt):
Liese Campbell is working as an estate agent in Melbourne when she first meets Alexander Colquhoun. The handsome scion of a prominent farming family, he is searching for a pied-a-terre in the city. At another disappointing viewing, Liese leads Alexander to the bedroom, and they sleep together. Afterwards, he pulls out a roll of cash, and she takes three hundred dollars. ‘Half price’, she says jokingly, ‘because I like you.’ Liese is not a prostitute, but it is an erotic game, she thinks, that both parties are playing.
Whenever Alexander is in the city he calls her, and pays for sex. For Liese, who has travelled to Australia from England after losing her job, the relationship is fun, and a useful way to begin paying off her debts. When Liese decides to return home, she receives a letter from Alexander inviting her to the country for the weekend, and offering a price she cannot refuse. A few days of sex and luxury, she thinks – a final fling before she departs.
As you can see for the description, the book seemed perfect for me. But, from the very beginning I felt a detachment from the main character that remained with me the whole novel. Liese was a confused and chaotic character that should have appealed to me, since these kind of characters always do. But all throughout the novel I thought she had been careless and had behaved like a teenager. In fact, her behavior did not help me understand her choices.
However, what I did like was the Australian landscape. It had been a long time since I read a book settled in Australia, even though I am a huge Kate Morton fan. One of the things that I like the most about postcolonial settings is the contradictions tha come from the settlement and the place. In The Engagement Liese is trapped in a typically Victorian building in the middle of the hot, vast Australian landscape. That alone is a very powerful tool to make readers feel uneasy and out-of-place and it did help me feel like Liese did.
I read that this book is similar to Gone Girl, but I apart from a messed and confused main female character I do not know where the comparison comes from. Amy was a much more calculating and psychopathic character than Liese. I certainly cannot imagine Amy making the mistakes Liese did, but then again, I did not understand Liese at all.
So, maybe this book came at a difficult reading time for me, or maybe it was not my kind of story. But I suggest it to anyone interested in Australia and Australian literature because the contradictions of what the place was intended to be and what the landscape and geography was play a key role in the novel.