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Book Signing at Petrarch’s
Scottsdale Library speech
This is the speech I gave in my home town of Scottsdale, just before Christmas. Thanks to all those who came along. I really appreciate your support. Melanie.
“Perhaps you have to leave a place to really appreciate it. But I hope Freycinet, with its emotive, colour-filled and dramatic descriptions, its inherent darkness and gothic allusions, its painterly portrait of Tasmania, sparks some resonance with you.”
“Welcome everyone and thank you to the Scottsdale Library for hosting me today.
It’s lovely and seems fitting to be here today in Victoria Street talking about my book. We lived at 20 Victoria Street for many years, with Paul Farrell next door and Janelle Langley down the road, and directly opposite was Ruth Unwin. I initially chose the name Ruth for one of my characters because of Ruth Unwin. But that was when the character was sweet and innocent and blonde. Later the character became dark and nasty and decidedly witchy, and obviously not at all like Ruth Unwin.
One of the things that I loved in my childhood was the library. I had a special arrangement with Mrs Smith so that I could take out as many books as I liked. I read some ridiculous amount of books for the MS read-a-thon. And I always thought I would write a book.
Ever since I first found out that a person could actually write a book. It wasn’t until Diggity Gresham at school one day asked if I liked The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I said ‘yes, of course.’ To which he replied that it had been written by his step-grandfather. I was sure that couldn’t be true. But Mum and Dad confirmed it. C.S. Lewis’ family lived in Ringarooma next to my uncle’s pig farm! This was amazing to me because prior to this books came from England. They were written in England, usually by men, and seemingly hundreds of years ago.
Then, when I was a teenager, I came across a book by Tasmanian author Carmel Bird. The book, The Bluebird Café, was set in, of all places, Launceston! Her characters sat and drank milkshakes at Pierre’s much as I was doing at the time while at Matric.
My plan to be an author seemed to be slowly becoming more possible.
So I went to see a student advisor, to see what I needed to study to be an author. “No,” they said, “with your work experience you should do a business degree. You won’t get into Uni otherwise.” “It’s no good doing Literature, it won’t lead to anything. Everyone wants to be a writer, but very few people actually become one.” “You could do Journalism, but you can’t do Journalism in Tasmania.”
But, somewhat amazingly, I did get into Uni, at Deakin University in Victoria, where I studied Literature, Journalism, and Performing Arts. I did an honours degree and then a master’s degree in Literature.
But I still hadn’t written a book.
Then, much as in my novel, my fiancé Brad and I were at Freycinet. We were standing on the balcony, with fairy lights glittering in the trees, when the soundtrack from Twin Peaks began to play. And I said, “This would be a great place to set a novel.”
It was always going to be like Picnic at Hanging Rock, merely because of the mammoth physical presence of Freycinet’s Hazards mountains. And there would be one or more young women who disappeared into the wilderness. The true life mysteries of Nancy Grunwaldt’s disappearance and the murder of Victoria Cafasso only reinforced the idea of the haunting Hazards, the perilous landscape, and labyrinth-like forests.
And so we have Freycinet, the novel, a psychological murder mystery in which the main character, Ginny O’Byrne, finds herself pitted against the eerie, ever-present Hazards, experiencing gory, clairvoyant visions of two missing women, surrounded by a cast of extremely suspicious and untrustworthy men, and all of this in an environment that seems intent on consuming Ginny into itself. Ginny joins the search and rescue mission to try to find the two women, but can she find them without placing her own life in danger?
In the novel, I wrote about things that I have some knowledge of. So there is a policeman because all through my life I have had the presence of a policeman father. There is ballet because when I was 10 my sister Cindy was in the Tasmanian Ballet Company and Mum and I sometimes travelled with the company because Cindy was only 17 at the time. So I was ‘subjected’ to a lot of ballet performances. And my novel has the Tasmanian bush because I’ve spent a lot of time travelling to places like Cradle Mountain, wondering at the Chinese graves at the Moorina cemetery, exploring on lonely farms at Ringarooma, and rolling down sand dunes at Tomahawk. All these places impacted strongly on me, and so it strikes a resonating note in my heart when I see the familiar colour combination of blue and green.
Perhaps you have to leave a place to really appreciate it. But I hope Freycinet, with its emotive, colour-filled and dramatic descriptions, its inherent darkness and gothic allusions, its painterly portrait of Tasmania, sparks some resonance with you. Because my novel Freycinet was born of this town, this landscape, this state, and is in many ways its child and product.
East Coast stars in debut novel
Book trailer for Freycinet
Let me know what you think. I think it’s a bit beautiful.
New Thriller from Local Author
Vol. 104, No. 31, Wednesday, August 29, 2012
New Thriller from Local Author
FREYCINET, a murder mystery set in the well known Tasmanian national park, is the first novel by Melanie Calvert.
Ms Calvert was born in Launceston and grew up in Scottsdale. She is the daughter of Ted and Phyllis Calvert.
The novel was inspired by events surrounding the unsolved 1993 disappearance of 26-year-old German backpacker Nancy Grunwaldt, and the 1995 brutal murder of 20-year-old Italian tourist, Victoria Cafasso.
The main character of the novel, Ginny O’Byrne, arrives at Freycinet National Park with her fiance Julian, only to be haunted by a series of clairvoyant visions of two young murdered women.
The next morning two young women are missing. Within 24 hours, Ginny is part of a massive search and rescue mission, surrounded by people who may in fact be responsible for the murder of the missing women, tormented by her gruesome visions, and embroiled in an eerie atmosphere that is becoming increasingly threatening.
“Freycinet contains all the things that I find fascinating about Tasmania; its beauty, its dramatic scenery, its essential, inherent danger. I wanted the novel to be like Picnic at Hanging Rock or Twin Peaks with that same sense of atmospheric horror,” the author said.
“And I couldn’t fail to reference the terrible, unresolved vanishing of Nancy Grunwaldt, or the horrific murder of Victoria Cafasso and the image of her tragic ghost, calling from among the reeds.”
Freycinet is currently available at the Scottsdale Information Centre and other good bookshops. It is also available online from Amazon, Booktopia, the Book Depository and Ebay.
“It’s a place that devours its inhabitants.” Melanie Calvert on Tasmanian Gothic and her novel Freycinet
Published in READ IN A SINGLE SITTING
Hobart, Tasmania (image from FlickR Commons)
Disconnected from the mainland of Australia and known for its profuse and rugged landscape, Tasmania is a place around which a mythology of sorts has sprung up. There’s a sense of its being a closed door, a place into which many of us look on from afar, hearing only snatches of its narrative. It’s a place where ghosts thrive.
“Tasmania has a dark, brutal history, from the cruelty of the convict era, to mistreatment of the Aborigines, to more recent times with the truly terrible Port Arthur massacre,” says Melanie Calvert, author of the recent novel Freycinet.
“Ever since England’s convicts were first sent to ‘the ends of the earth’, Tasmania has been associated with brutality and cruelty.”
This is something she captures when she writes:
The Europeans named the island Van Diemen’s Land, and then Tasmania; the name change a futile attempt to shake off its malicious repute. But the names seem apt with their evocation of maniacal demons (anyone who’s stood on the West Coast might think they were being assaulted by demonic, torturous wind sprites). Tasmania is extremely capricious, and while it may have a temperate climate, it is a rugged place.
Australia as a whole has been caught up in a narrative of violence and potential treachery, she says: from Azaria Chamberlain to Picnic at Hanging Rock the possibility of the country turning on its human population has been a eerie, constant undercurrent.
“Perhaps this is due to a certain lack of confidence stemming from the fact that our inhabitants in the main were from ‘elsewhere’. Like a motherless child they have had to face the elements without any intrinsic knowledge or cultural heritage.”
Whatever the cause, the concept of a land that may consume its inhabitants can certainly be applied to Tasmania. She writes in Freycinet:
“Tasmania has long been the site of fatal shipwrecks, and bushfires, heat-waves and floods. As recently as 2001, Tasmania’s most popular tourist destination, Cradle Mountain, effectively devoured four people and injured 14 others when a landslide sent a tourist bus hurtling down a ravine. In Tasmania, bridges come crashing down, severe floods break dams and wash whole towns away, scorching bushfires carve hot paths through homes and people.”
And the aesthetics of the island fittingly suit this dramatic, dark history.
Image from FlickR Commons
“Tasmania has impenetrable bushland and untameable forests. The indigenous creatures look strange and distorted, bizarre and freakishly beautiful; the vegetation sometimes grotesque and gargantuan. The Tasmanian forests evoke uncivilised, prehistoric times, with an environment thought to be similar to that once found on that original ancient landmass, Gondwana.”
Moreover, with a third of the island designated National Parkland, much of the state is inaccessible, which only adds to its mysterious appeal.
“The bush is eerie, because there are things there when you hear that rustle; there are snakes and Devils and sometimes evil men.”
And yet, as Melanie explores in Freycinet, Tasmania’s rugged wildness is blanketed with a strange Englishness, a veneer of what she calls “civilisation and neat safety” that scarcely obscures the disturbing nature at its heart.
Tasmania was strange. First, it had a tamed, English country garden aspect. In Launceston, Julian and I had wandered through manicured gardens, clipped, neat parks, Victorian-era buildings and colonial manors. And then, right in the middle of this English-looking city, it was punched with the gaping chasm of the Cataract Gorge, with its rock cliffs and clefts and wild torrential flooding.
And the rest of Tasmania was the same; all conservative and controlled, English and quaint, then around a corner and bam! Wildness, wilderness, danger, cliffs and horizontal scrub, lakes with no bottoms, wild seas and ice-needle sea-spray and a surprising amount of small but particularly vicious animals.
Melanie mentions a quote from author Nicholas Shakespeare, who describes the island thus: “There is the Tasmanian light, and then, all over the island, there are pockets of extraordinary darkness,” (Tasmania, 2004).
Or, as she describes it in Freycinet:
Tasmania has the inglorious distinction of being both hospitably habitable and fiercely uninhabitable, being at once both bland and perilous, as if the whole island is a type of mind-numbing, deathly trap.
Growing up amongst the ghosts of Tasmania
Having grown up in Tasmania, Melanie was raised amongst “ghost tales and tales of the Aboriginal Australians and Tasmanian Tigers who had once been commonplace; tales of ghost cars that appeared then disappeared at night on the Sidling Road, tales of Ghosty Downs who ploughed his wife’s dismembered body into the fields of Devil’s Halfacre; tales told to me by my sisters in bed at night of a one-wooden-legged man outside our window.”
It’s possible, she says, that she was raised to find ghost and spooks where others would find none.
“I wanted to write about the things that I find interesting. I wanted to write a story like Picnic at Hanging Rock, and I decided to set it in Freycinet National Park, which has its own haunting triptych of uncanny rocks – the Hazards – hanging ominously over the inhabitants. It would be about some young women who went missing in the wilderness.”
It wasn’t until some time later that she learnt of the German backpacker, Nancy Grunwaldt, and Italian tourist, Victoria Cafasso; Nancy who had disappeared never to be seen again, and Victoria who was found on a lonely Tasmanian beach, stabbed 40 times. And both, she adds, not far from Freycinet.
“So they too became entwined in the story. I suspect it is my ghost-story-riddled childhood that drew me to these dark narratives, and as Tasmania in the novel became her own character, she fell easily into her threatening and eerie role.”
Melanie believes that Tasmania, and particularly Freycinet, is a fabulous backdrop: it’s dramatic and colour-filled and glorious.
“And I’m of the Anne of Green Gables school of thought: write about what you know.”
The gothic influences in Freycinet
Freycinet fits firmly within the Gothic tradition, with a number of elements that position it so. It features, for example, a subplot that draws on the ballet narrative La Sylphide, as it is at this ballet that Ginny and Julian, the novel’s main characters, first meet. The foregrounding of this subplot means that the novel is effectively framed from the outside by a Gothic/Romantic narrative.
“In La Sylphide, James is meant to marry Effie, but becomes obsessed with the beautiful, unattainable Sylph, a forest nymph. James accepts a scarf from a witch, who tells him the scarf will allow him to capture the Sylph. It does so, but the scarf is poisoned and the Sylph dies in James’s arms.”
In Freycinet, we see something similar, only translated into a modern urban setting.
“Julian takes the part of the brooding James, treating his betrothed, Ginny, in a manner that is nothing short of villainous. Julian’s gloomy and often violent temperament proves to be due to his obsession with the beautiful ballerina, Vivienne, now a missing person in the wilderness of Freycinet National Park.”
The Gothic backstory is reinforced by a close adherence to Tasmanian history in order to establish an ominous backdrop to match these fictional proceedings.
“The result is a story that melds ghostly apparitions, dream visions, faux-aboriginal myth, doppelgangers and elements of both horror and romance, framed by the realistic-seeming proceedings of a police search and rescue mission.”
There are numerous supernatural elements in Freycinet, says Melanie. Her character Ginny is haunted by ghostly, gory visions of two young woman who soon afterwards go missing; she imagines herself floating off into the forest in a strange, red-shoed trance; and when she finds the journal of the missing Ruth, finds that Ruth has a distinctly witch-like persona.
Image from FlickR Commons
“Evocative of the Gothic, Freycinet also contains the castle-like, imposing Devil Lodge – a sparkling beacon against the dark Hazards – the Hazards themselves whose mere presence frightens Ginny to distraction, and hidden passages carved through forest bushland.”
The setting of the Gothic novel is commonly a character in itself, Melanie points out, and in the wild Tasmanian terrain, Ginny finds strange and murderous objects everywhere she looks:
A body here might not be immediately discerned amongst the bulky clumps of jet-black seaweed. Splayed along the beach are several long, blackened hunks of wood. There are murderous weapons everywhere under this fairy floss, soft sky. Nor would the sound of screams be conspicuous here; snatched away by the stealing wind and camouflaged by cracking waves.
However, in her work Melanie has also reinterpreted the landscape of the Gothic and made it her own.
“Rather than the infertile, desolate or bare land of traditional Gothic, Freycinet depicts one of hyper-fertility, one in which the characters are indeed at risk of being consumed by their environment.”
Now I too lie down. With my eyes closed I’m struck by the pungent, cinnamon smell of the bush. In the mottled firelight, I reach out, but not towards Julian. I reach away from him, on the other side, out into the shadows. My fingers find cushion-soft moss, knife-edge stones, brittle cracking leaves, damp loamy chocolaty dirt, whip-like ferns, all alive, overly alive, trying to consume and decompose me; to incorporate me into their own fecund, compost-like environment. I grasp a moist handful of the earth, and hold it tightly in my hand, curl my cold fingers around its life, and close my eyes.
“In this passage Ginny almost seems to relish her potential integration into the landscape,” she says.
“But at the edges of this fecund realm also lie signs of encroaching decay, rot and sickness; creatures with rotting cancerous growths that evoke the current crisis in the Tasmanian Devil population, and water edged with bile-like pollution.”
It is a setting that not only evokes an atmosphere of horror and dread, she says, but that also speaks of the potential deterioration of this world.
“The hints of decay and decrepitude warn of real-life threats to the pristine state and nature of Tasmania.”
On unreliable narrators
“Ginny, for reasons revealed later in the novel, is the ultimate unreliable narrator,” says Melanie, adding that this unreliability allows a certain freedom for her as an author.
Although there are events in the novel that a reader may question, Melanie is able to get around this issue by the very fact that she is describing not necessarily how things occur, but how Ginny perceives them to occur.
“The narrative is potentially unconstrained by reality or the physical world. For instance, the key to the supernatural elements of the novel lie in Ginny’s unreliable narration. In fact the novel itself postulates that the entire story may never have really happened.”
And I am left with the distinct impression that this is all a dream, all of it, and I am only an ordinary tourist visiting Freycinet, who has had a curious dream one long, dark night. As if all I have experienced here is only the echoed sliver of a very real and unbearably callous murder, and these visions and thoughts I have had are mere reverberations and splintered echoes of the madness of that abhorrent act.
It’s a weird feeling of … unrealness. As if I am a mere figure in a dream, or a character in a painting or a novel, only an imagined, powerless creature myself.
“There is a lot that Ginny has forgotten,” says Melanie, “and what she does remember is in a distorted, confused way. The question is even posed as to whether not only her beliefs and thoughts, but perhaps even her entire personality is a mere construct.”
Melanie says that discarding or blocking out memories may allow an individual a way of coping with moments of outright horror, grief or disbelief—those moments that push a person beyond the limits of their own comprehension, or quite literally out of their mind.
In Freycinet Ginny has suffered such an event, and because of her questionable relation of events, there is nothing in the novel that can really be believed. Ginny is a fictional character in every sense of the word.
“If a reader senses their narrator is unreliable, their instinct may be to sift through information, to attempt to assess which information is true and which is false. This may serve to draw a reader into a story. They must pay attention, remember past events and judge these against new ones. They are drawn into being the sleuth in the mystery.”
Melanie adds that it’s essential that readers attempt to read between the lines rather than taking what Ginny says at face value, as there is nothing in the narration that is not intrinsically about Ginny herself.
“The novel in fact revolves around the psychology of the descent into insanity, and it is therefore madness that filtrates and filters this narrative.”
On writing a literary thriller
Freycinet, although containing a mystery of sorts, is not a murder mystery novel in the traditional “whodunnit” sense. Rather it’s a literary thriller, a genre that Melanie has always enjoyed.
“I’ve always loved thrillers, particularly psychological thrillers. I love the 1973 horror film Don’t Look Now, adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier, where a man is haunted by glimpses of what seems to be the ghost of his dead little girl, and is eventually driven to a terrifying madness.”
She adores the film for its combination of intrigue, the interesting aspect of the psychological state of the characters, the shock of the ghostlike presence, the supreme backdrop of the haunting labyrinth of Venice, the poignant image of the lost child in the bright red coat, constantly fleeing just beyond the grieving father’s reach.
In Freycinet she sought to achieve something similar, although her key goal was to write something that she would like to read herself.
“The novel explores elements that I find interesting: Tasmania, beautiful cinematic scenery, missing person stories, unsolved mysteries, the supernatural, fairy tales, ballet narratives, psychoanalytical theory, the concept of obsession, and the compelling children’s tale, The Red Shoes. I never thought of it as an ambitious project so much as an interesting one.”
The reception to Freycinet thus far has been very positive, with readers telling Melanie that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the novel and would love to see more work from her – a response with which she couldn’t be happier.
“I hope that people find Freycinet thought-provoking, interesting, entertaining. I would like it to make Tasmanians appreciate what they have, and to draw people who haven’t been lucky enough to go there, to go there. I want to produce a thing of beauty, and have others find it beautiful too, to have their hearts leap a little or fall in love just a little with a beautiful scene or image or idea, to learn something new, or to see the ordinary in an extraordinary way.”
The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.
~Jules Renard, “Diary,” February 1895
Source: asthetiques.com via Melanie on Pinterest
Spirit of Place
“But I still imagine Victoria’s wet face peering from among the reeds, Nancy’s bike wheel spinning.”
Read the full article from ACTWrite November 2012 issue as a PDF here:
Author Profile in ACTWrite
Great review from HerCanberra!
“Freycinet will keep you guessing to the end with its quirky, mysterious characters and stunning poetry narrative of the Tasmanian landscape. If you have visited Tasmania before, you’ll relate to Calvert’s eloquent descriptions, and if you haven’t, you’ll want to, and be enveloped in its mesmerising beauty, as Ginny is throughout the story. Freycinet is a worthy beach holiday – or bush cabin holiday – read, if you dare.”
I have a Pinterest page too if you would like to take a look. Melanie.
Freycinet Number 1 at Paperchain!
Canberra Launch of Freycinet
Most horrifyingly, I was required to make a speech at the Canberra Launch of Freycinet. Here it is, for anyone who may be interested:
“Ten years ago I stood on the balcony of Freycinet Lodge, the fairy lights flickering through the trees, the music from Twin Peaks floating out into the syrupy air, and I turned to my fiancé Brad and said “this would be a great place to set a novel.” Luckily, Brad was more supportive than Ginny’s fiancé Julian in the novel.
I wanted to write a book that I would like to read. So Freycinet contains all the things that I find fascinating about Tasmania; its beauty, its dramatic scenery, its essential, inherent danger. I wanted my novel to be like Picnic at Hanging Rock or Twin Peaks, to create that same sense of atmospheric horror.
So Freycinet became a psychological murder mystery that depicts Tasmania as a place of great beauty, but also one of mystery and murder; an enigmatic living museum with a history of harsh cruelty.
It is essentially an exploration of Tasmania’s strange Gothic potency, referencing Tasmanian cold cases such as the horrific murder of 20-year-old Italian Tourist, Victoria Cafasso, and the still unsolved vanishing of 26-year-old German Tourist Nancy Grunwaldt. It also contains Tasmanian history, Aboriginal myth, European fairy tales, and even ballet plots.
Freycinet was written in dribs and drabs over these last 10 years. When my children were little it was written by single paragraphs late at night, just a single, vivid scene or image. Over the years I’ve missed events and outings and meals out to write (although I should confess I’m actually a hermit who prefers to be home alone anyway, so sometimes this was just a good excuse!) It was been written and re-written and put to one side and written again from scratch. And finally it has been pushed out into the world, leaving me to cringingly await its reception.
Freycinet is intended as a tribute to my home state, a studied collection of many bits and pieces from my life, and it is filled with things that interest and intrigue me. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank you to the fabulous Monica Penders for launching my book today. Thank you to Steve and the staff here at Paperchain, to Kirsten McCulloch, who was one of my early readers, to all the friends and guests who have come here today to celebrate with me, and to all those who have bought my book! Thank you to Brad, Henry and Miranda for putting up with another of my various hare-brained schemes, and to my sister Cindy and my niece Harriet who have travelled from Tasmania to be here today.
Thank you everyone.”
Launch speech by Monica Penders – Director Screen ACT
Monica Penders, Film Producer and the Director of ScreenACT, very kindly agreed to launch Freycinet at the Canberra Launch at Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka, 15 Sept 2012. This is a transcript of her great speech!
“As a filmmaker and visual story teller, I can easily imagine this story on the big screen – the vivid colours, the greens of the forest, the blue greys of the stormy sea, the browns of the earth and rotting foliage, the sea green of Vivienne’s dress, the red of stiletto heels and the drying blood.”
Melanie contacted me a few weeks ago and said she needed someone fabulous, famous and female to launch her book. Well I am female! The rest – sorry – I am all she could find. And therefore I am most honoured that Mel asked me to speak today on this special occasion.
As a fellow writer, Mel of books, me mainly of screenplays, I know that the hardest thing about writing is … writing. It’s carving out the time, it’s making that regular concerted effort, it’s ignoring everything else (no – the sock drawer does not need reorganising, or the contents of the fridge need to be put into alphabetic order). This is when the support of the family is vital. And Brad and the kids have obviously helped Mel in every way to get this book written. Everything has to be put aside to satisfy the muse.
One of the hardest things about writing or any artistic endeavour is putting it out there – opening up your hard work and often your heart and soul to an audience – hoping for praise and dreading criticism.
It was with a little trepidation that I started to read Freycinet (thank goodness Mel put a phonetic pronunciation on the back or I would have embarrassed myself talking about Frixenay).
What if I didn’t like it? What would I get up and say here today? That should have been the least of my worries.
I should set the scene a little. I recently moved from a small, modern one bedroom apartment in the middle of Belconnen with about 1000 neighbours in the complex, to a 3 bedroom 1950’s fibro cottage in the middle of 1600 acres near the NSW border.
Two neighbours in near distance and many rabbits, foxes, wombats, spiders and snakes for company. The cottage has an amazing and sometimes imposing view of the Brindabellas, a copse of trees behind the cottage that my lovely partner, incidentally a Tasmanian, refers to as the Blair Witch trees.
I had a night on my own and I thought, I will start reading the book.
The feeling of disquiet, of menace, of impending doom and disaster, of events being out of control and predestined that seeped from the first few pages, coupled with the wind playing havoc with the Blair Witch trees and odd sounds emanating from outside, had me putting the book down fairly quickly and burrowing under the covers.
This happened a few times, each time going a little further into the story and once actually shouting out – for goodness sake Ginny – pack your bloody bags and get the hell out of dodge!
Her characters leapt from the page –
Everything told through the eyes of Ginny the somewhat unreliable narrator, her fears and foibles often giving us the wrong impression. Julian, a man you just wanted to slap! What had happened to him to change him so much and be so emotionally distant on one hand and so pointedly cruel on the other? Why did she stay with him? Run, run, run – straight into the arms of the delicious Tom, who seemed to know her better than anyone even though they had only just met. The ethereally beautiful missing Vivienne, and Ruth who holds the biggest secret of all.
The interweaving of the ballet story line with the indigenous folk takes was ingenious and mesmerising, all intertwined with the wild, untamed Tasmanian landscape.
Mel has managed to paint a masterfully vivid backdrop to the story. This not only comes from her talent as a writer and all of her impressive tertiary study – but as a painter – the backdrop is as visual as if she has physically painted it as a landscape.
As a filmmaker and visual story teller, I can easily imagine this story on the big screen – the vivid colours, the greens of the forest, the blue greys of the stormy sea, the browns of the earth and rotting foliage, the sea green of Vivienne’s dress, the red of stiletto heels and the drying blood.
Ginny’s horrifying visions of the victims that only she can see – great visual motifs mixed through the intoxicating harsh beauty of Freycinet.
As a potential film, I would compare this as to the classic Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Sixth Sense and even a little bit of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca or Mary Stewart’s book Wildfire at Midnight.
If only film had smell – because I could almost detect the aroma of cooked quail, of dried blood, of humus rich soil, of decay … and of fear.
I so didn’t see the twist coming at the end – and for those who haven’t read it, I won’t give the game away. You have to buy a copy and read it for yourself.
A wonderfully well written, evocative and painterly read, a potentially great film. I am going to talk to Mel about collaborating – she should adapt her book into a screenplay and I would love to be involved – and I am going to talk to my colleagues at Screen Tasmania about a co-production at the right time.
Because there is only one place that you could shoot this film and that would be in Freycinet.”
Gripping New Murder Mystery
The new novel, Freycinet, by Melanie Calvert, is a startling psychological murder mystery that resonates strongly with the current Tasmanian Gothic movement. In Freycinet, Tasmania is depicted as a place of great beauty, but also one of mystery and murder.
Ginny O’Byrne arrives at Freycinet National Park with her fiancé Julian, only to be haunted by gory, clairvoyant visions of two murdered young women. The next morning two women are missing. Ginny immediately joins the massive Search and Rescue mission, but she is surrounded by people who may be responsible for the murder of the missing women, and embroiled in an eerie atmosphere that is becoming increasingly threatening.
The author, Melanie Calvert, explains: “I wanted it to be like Picnic at Hanging Rock or Twin Peaks, with that same sense of atmospheric horror.” Accordingly, in its exploration of Tasmania’s strange Gothic potency, the novel references Tasmanian cold cases such as those of Victoria Cafasso and Nancy Grunwaldt, Tasmanian history, Aboriginal myth, European fairy tales, and even ballet plots.
The novel itself discusses this cultural potency, likening it to the French term terroir: “Loosely translated it means ‘sense of place,’ the sum of the effects of the surrounding environment … a sense of the land itself; a combination of its weather, its terrain, its history, the things that have happened here, and of people’s shared histories with that place, its particular resonances, the intersection of wilderness and myth and human culture and beliefs.”
But, for the main character of Freycinet, Ginny O’Byrne, this experience of the land is overwhelming and horrifying, and Ginny will eventually encounter a shocking conclusion that will leave the reader reeling.
Freycinet is available from bookshops and online, or as an ebook from Amazon.com.
About the Author
Melanie Calvert was born in Launceston and grew up in Scottsdale in North East Tasmania. She has a Master’s Degree in Literature and a Journalism degree from Deakin University in Victoria. Freycinet is her first novel.
For more information about Freycinet, please visit