By Fabienne Bayet-Chalrton
IAD Press, 2005, $22.95
A gripping read, Watershed will make you grieve all over again for someone you have lost yourself, or just feel empathy for strangers for their own loss. It will bring back memories of news stories on television and in newspapers of children gone missing never to be found, and how as outsiders our eyes can still well at the heartache of grieving parents we don’t know, but feel for.
Such it is with reading of Eve and Marconi Beunetti’s struggle as parents to rebuild their lives and their marriage once their son David drowns in the town of Sturtspond in the Southern Murraylands. Eve, Commonwealth Squad Murray Cod’s Representative and Champion of the Riverland, is the local heroine, who still talks to her son and considers what she should cook him for dinner as she drowns herself in alcohol, and loses herself in the arms of her husband’s brother Victorio, the Town Mayor and renowned womaniser. MArconi busies himself on the family property waiting for his wife to return to him as she once was.
The characters of this novel include the manager of the D.M. Beunetti Memorial Swim Centre, lily white Marg, who keeps and eye on Eve as she laps daily and has a cask of wine in the bottom of the fridge ready when needed. There’s Marg’s husband, ‘decent, hardworking and community minded. If he wasn’t black, he’d probably by prime minister by now”. their son, Win, the studdly life-guard and then there’s the new Wild Girl in town, Jasmine the environmentalist, who hooked up with the Mayor at an outta-town Conference and is soon appointed as the revegetation project manager, and soon also, manages to hook up with Win.. As if these characters weren’t enough to add a lighter element to a sad, serious story, there’s the Inaugural Bidgee Finance Ouyen Women’s Raindance in the little town situation northwest of Victoria with a population of 1500. The scenes in the book related to this alone are a cultural experience! Of sorts…
While this story, is about loss and grief, and how the human spirit deals with traumatic events, it is also about survival and the support evident by locals in a small country town. Fabienne has managed to weave throughout the novel humour and vivid imagery of landscape along the Murray River.
Watershed was short listed for the 2006 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for Indigenous Writing. Her previous work Find Ullagundahi Island was highlight commended in the 2000 David Unaipon Award.
Born to a Bundjalung mother and a Belgian father, Bayet has worked for the Native Title Unit, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and in the Parliamentary Research Unit. After moving from Canberra to Adelaide, Bayet focussed on her writing and motherhood. She now lives in the Adelaide Hills with her fella, two kids and a dog.
Fabienne is also a volunteer firefighter.
Available from the publisher IAD Press:
Or ask your library to order it in!