Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here by acclaimed novelist Heather Rose is a piece of writing that sits somewhere between a memoir and a meditation. It’s the sort of work that I’d normally loathe, but instead, I was fascinated, absorbed, and moved.
To me, it seemed divided into three main themes: Rose’s early years growing up in Tasmania, and the events that shaped her. Then it moves on to her spiritual beliefs and practices. It finishes with a consideration of the degenerative illness that has also significantly shaped her life.
It’s not that neat, of course. No one lives a life so precisely divided. But it feels that this is how Rose has given the work boundaries and shape, by choosing to focus on those areas in turn.
This is not a biography. It lacks both the detail and the chronology that you’d expect to find in his type of book. Rose also acknowledges that there are some things that might be regarded as historical inaccuracies, largely to protect the privacy of those who do not or might not want to be written about. However, this work is intensely personal and at the end, I felt I knew Rose well, perhaps better than if she had precisely recorded dates and times, and events.
Rose talks about the tragedies and challenges that marked her childhood and early adulthood with clarity, but with a lack of analysis. The emotional load is strong, and it draws you into the overall work with considerable power. However, Rose does not seem much inclined to retrospectively debate meaning much beyond her thoughts at the time. It gives the reader plenty to mull over.
It also creates a sense of immediacy, increasing the emotional impact of her matter of fact description of some quite awful events. If you’ve ever lost someone, this section may be quite triggering. However, there’s also hope and encouragement there – if only in the fact that she and other members of her family kept going – and it may also be comforting.
The middle section was the one I was least engaged with. This was an exploration of Rose’s spiritual beliefs and practices, and how she developed them. I am rather cynical about these things, and don’t generally take well to people proselytising. Rose engaged me exactly because she wasn’t doing this. She explains what she does, and rather less directly, what it does for her mentally and physically.
I found her descriptions of various rituals fascinating and moving because of the subtle way she implied their impact on her and her life. I have rarely appreciated a piece of writing about spirituality as I did this one.
Finally, Rose reveals and discusses the illness which has had a major impact on her life. Again she tends to the matter of fact, somehow incorporating a significant emotional impact even as it feels that she’s skating over the surface of some things.
I enjoyed reading this immensely, finding myself surprised by how fascinated and moved I was by things that normally wouldn’t interest me much. Rose is a powerful writer. This will appeal to anyone who’s looking for strong writing, and the possibility of being engaged with the subject matter they might normally find uninteresting.
I think it’s left up to the reader whether any conclusions have been reached. However, this is thoughtful and moving, a wonderful insight into how a person is shaped. It’s well worth your time.
Copy courtesy of Allen and Unwin (2022)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here by Heather Rose. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .