Nicole Melanson ~
Bruny by Heather Rose is a hefty political thriller that asks whether there can ever be a happy marriage between the spirit of a people and the ambitions of their governing body. There’s no easing into this conflict—the book opens with a bomb going off on a half-built bridge linking Tasmania to the island of Bruny. What follows is an exhaustive exploration of different political viewpoints and personal perspectives on globalism vs. isolationism, climate change, and the equitable distribution of international resources and economic power, amongst other things.
A couple of chapters into Bruny, I was already thinking of friends who would love it. I am neither a history buff nor a political aficionado myself—especially not in Australia, where I’m an immigrant—so I really had to get my thinking cap on to keep up with this book, but once I found the rhythm, I enjoyed all the back and forth between different parties. Where Bruny comes into its own for me is once all the basic positions have been established and we start to sense how much we’re missing behind the scenes. Not coincidentally, this is also where “UN troubleshooter” Astrid “Ace” Coleman starts to shine as she methodically begins peeling apart the conflict surrounding the bridge and all it represents to and for Tasmania.
Ace is a cool, compelling protagonist. Readers of this genre will be well familiar with the damaged, hard-drinking, slightly out-of-control male detective trope, so it was refreshing to see a middle-aged woman with a bruised heart and a clear head fulfilling the investigative role instead. Rose strikes an admirable balance between the emotional weight of Ace’s backstory and the wary cynicism that strengthens her professional capabilities. This is a woman who has seen a lot, and she knows better than to take things at face value.
On one hand, we have the incumbent Premier, Ace’s twin brother JC, while Ace’s older half sister, Max, represents the Opposition. Swirling around them are various family members, including a mean mother dying of cancer and a beloved father who can only speak in Shakespeare after suffering multiple strokes, along with a wide host of other characters representing different agendas. There are those who don’t want to see life as they know it change when the Bruny bridge inevitably increases traffic to the island, and others who welcome the potential increase in opportunities and wealth.
As Ace gets swept along in her investigation, she finds herself re-evaluating her relationships and loyalties. A budding closeness with the bridge foreman, Dan Macmillan, offers some respite from both family and political drama, though ever the consummate professional, Ace keeps her cards close to her chest throughout their interaction.
I questioned a technicality on one key reveal towards the end of Bruny, but it rang true for the character and formed an essential component to the storyline, so it didn’t seem overly important. By this stage, I was well caught up in Bruny’s momentum anyway, as the book threads together towards a conclusion that feels both inevitable and satisfying.
Fans of the series Homeland will appreciate the ethical dilemmas and strategic power plays in Bruny, but above all else, this book is a love story—not of a person, but of a place. Of a way of life. And of a people.
You can order Bruny here.