BOOK CLUB: Between Water and the Night Sky

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Between Water and the Night Sky by Simone Lazaroo is a novel that’s light on plot, instead focusing strongly on character and emotion. It’s understated, and yet remarkably effective at drawing you into the central characters’ lives.

The novel opens with the death of the narrator’s mother, Elspeth. Elspeth has lived a quietly remarkable life, one that involved a great deal of coping alone. The White Australia policy was still in force when she married Francis, an Eurasian Singaporean. She has little family support. She does not fit well in Singapore. However, when they migrate back to Australia, it is not only Francis who struggles to fit in.

In reflecting on how to honor her mother, and how she feels about her death, Eva reflects on what she knows of her mother’s life. A portrait emerges of a woman who seemed in some regards to let her life be dictated by others, and yet who showed considerable strength and courage.

This story really only has three characters: Elspeth, Francis, and their narrator daughter Eva. Others are mentioned, of course, but none are presented in any depth. Even Eva is remarkably absent from the narrative. This is a very internal novel, and much of it is internal to Elspeth.

Between Water and the Night Sky by Simone Lazaroo

This novel seems to lack dramatic high points, and on first glance not a lot happens. Then you consider how much personal grit was required to navigate many of these seemingly small moments, and it begins to seem that the pages are packed with significant events.

Without ever explicitly saying it, Eva shows how difficult Francis’ and Elspeth’s marriage was. Cross cultural marriages were neither common or easy at the time. Racism and sexism was rife. Elspeth was almost certainly affected by a childhood trauma that is only revealed late in the novel. And yet, for many years, they persist.

I found this a quietly affecting novel. It’s actually a little hard to write this review, because it’s such a subtle novel. There are no big characters, moments or gestures to comment on. The impact of the novel is generated with such delicacy that it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes it so effective.

Although challenging to review, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. It lands more on the side of sad than uplifting, but is a truthful and illuminating portrait of a marriage facing both everyday and extraordinary challenges. I enjoyed the subtle approach, and the excellent, understated writing.

ISBN: 9781760 991845

Copy courtesy of Fremantle Press (2023)

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Between Water and the Night Sky by Simone LazarooYou can read their comments below, or add your own review.

6 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Between Water and the Night Sky

  1. A beautiful story of migration. Written by author Simone Lazaroo, Between Water and the Night Sky is a autofiction. Eva tells the story of her parents and their migration from Singapore to Australia. Trauma warning Young infant abuse mentioned pages 172-174.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learning new things.

    Thankyou to The Beauty and Lace Club and Fremantle Press for the opportunity to read this beautifully written book.

  2. Simone Lazaroo was born in Singapore and migrated to Australia when she was a child. She describes her book Between Water and the Night Sky as a “work of fiction partly informed by her life and the lives of her parents”.
    In the book the story is told by Eva, the only child of Elspeth (from WA) and Francis (from Singapore). It is set shortly after the Second World War and its clear that her father and his family suffered terribly during the war. It seems also that her mother while having a happy childhood experienced a terrible event when she was a toddler but she doesn’t know what happened but clearly it has affected her.
    The story covers Eva’s parents romance which came about when Francis came to Australia as a student. He returns to Singapore after his studies and Elspeth follows him to Singapore where they marry and Eva is born. Her mother struggles in Singapore being stuck in a tiny apartment with no friends or social life. Eventually they are able to emigrate to Australia and sadly while on the outside their life improves it is not the happy time it should be.
    Its dreadful to read of the racism and bias that they encounter, and its clear that it affects each of them differently and the horrors of her father’s past and her mother’s health issues cause complications for them all. So while this is not a particularly happy story it is one that highlights the love within a family, how love can be shown so differently but is still there. It reminds us to never judge someone by how they look and to show our loved ones how much we care before its too late.
    This story is beautifully written, nature, water and the night sky are themes throughout the book as well as photography. Eva follows in her father’s footsteps as a photographer and her photos reflect the changes in their lives.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Fremantle Press for the opportunity to read this touching story.

  3. A divine story with some lovely insights but also some horrific events that happened to an interracial family. I found it interesting that Eva tries to capture her life in photography, to get meaning from capturing those moments that meant so much. And very specific moments hence the reference to the moment in time between the water and the night sky.
    I also found it interesting that it was loosely based on her life, the racial slurs and prejudices that were of that period, but they still managed to survive. Because all that happens in this story is about survival.
    Thank you so much for letting me spend my weekend on this thought provoking story.

  4. Between Water and The Night Sky by Simone Lazaroo is an outstanding work of fiction based on the autobiography of the narrator’s parents.

    After Elspeth passes away, her daughter Eva Oliveira decides to write her autobiography. This is a beautiful, yet sad story of her parent’s love for each other amidst the struggles of inter-racial marriages. It is a story of migration, family love and relationships. It also touches on awful piece of trauma experienced by Elspeth as a child. With water and waves in the ocean as a metaphor to her parents’ relationship and life, and also through photos taken by her father, and later by Eva, we are given an insight into her family life as a child.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Fremantle Press for the opportunity to read and review this gripping and hard-to-put-down novel.

  5. Between Water and the Night Sky by Simone Lazaroo is a beautifully written story that held my attention from page one. A work of fiction based partly on the life stories of herself and her parents that provides an insight into the trials and tribulations of an interracial couple in the years following the end of WWII. Eva narrates the story of her parents Francis and Elspeth, and it reads more like a memoir that a work of fiction.

    While there is no major climax or earth- shattering moment in this book, it doesn’t need it. The character development and the beautiful way Eva reminisces about her parents and her childhood stay with you long after you have finished reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so that I would like to borrow the quote from Liz Byrski from the front cover and say – I loved it!

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Freemantle Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  6. Between Water and the Night Sky by Simone Lazaroo was an incredibly touching and poignant story that I really enjoyed, even though I cried (several times).
    The story is told by Eva who is the only child of Elspeth and Francis and depicts their lives from meeting through to their deaths. I found it fascinating and also quite heartbreaking to read of an interracial relationship and the hardships this small family went through because of this. Eva tells us what she can, which is at times frustratingly not enough, but I do like that it always felt like it was coming from her point of view as a child (or the relevant age she is at the time).
    Elspeth was unknowingly heralding a great trauma that is only revealed towards the end of her life. Sadly it explains so much of why Elspeth was the way she was and how maybe she could have had help had she known what had happened to her.
    Francis is a Singaporean who comes to Australia on a scholarship to study engineering. His big hopes and dreams are quickly diminished with the racism and hostility he is shown. Luckily he meets Elspeth and they slowly fall in love.
    They move and live together in Singapore for a few years which is where Eva is born but then migrate back to Australia not long after. Here they face a new life that is hard and not always welcoming.
    A beautiful book that I found left me feeling quite sad and reflective, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much to Beauty and Lace and to Fremantle Press for the opportunity to read this novel and discover Simone Lazaroo. I will definitely be sourcing her other books.

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