Glitter Rose, by Marianne de Pierres, is a collection of short stories set on a fictionalised version of Stradbroke Island, called Carmine Island, in which mysterious spores have risen out of the ocean and settled over the island. These spores filter the sunlight reaching the island into a rose coloured hue but also cause “fierce irritations and allergies”, and effect people in strange and varied ways if they don’t take a preventative medication called Tyline.
Pierres has provided a section following the stories in which she provides some details about each of the stories, including her inspiration and what she was aiming to achieve with them. She says, “I lived on North Stradbroke Island off the southern Queensland coast in the early nineties. It was an emotional time in my life, with three young children and my family all back in Western Australia. It made for a love-hate relationship with the Island, a place I found attractively steeped in its own mythology and spirituality but nevertheless isolated at a time when I most feared such a thing.”
She goes on to discuss how the first story, Glimmer-by-Dark, was to ‘create such atmosphere in her work’ as she found in JG Ballard’s Vermillion Sands and Terry Dowling’s Twilight Beach. Glimmer-by-Dark starts out with:
“I drifted back to Carmine Island on a whim – a fragment of memory – like a warm current. A means to float, no matter how much I wanted to drown.”
From the beginning Pierres infuses her ambivalent attitude towards Stradbroke Island into the story in what called be described as a kind of literary expressionism, in which Pierres takes the real setting of Stradbroke Island and transforms it so the fictionalised setting incorporates her own attitude towards it and the main character can be considered as being like a fictional substitute for herself.
“Years before, families had clustered there, hungry for the sparkling water and unstained sand. In those days, ferries scurried like schools of busy reef fish to and from the mainland, their patrons littering the island with holiday trash, scarlet coral cuts and the agony of sunstroke – oblivious to the spirit winds.”
Pierres briefly describes Carmine Island as we would recognise Stradbroke Island now – then introduces “the spirit winds”, which we soon find out swept the spores onto the island. This quick segue way soon expands into a fuller exposition of Carmine Island in the wake of the spores, ten years later as the main character, Tinashi, travels to the island in search of isolation.
“Only one barge still ran. A tired, flat-backed beluga, wallowing its way through its last days. My custom had been to ride the stern. But I was a different person now. Worn by heartache.
The other passengers, I noticed, wore their own badges of disappointment. Some dressed in casual wealth, others in gaudy rags. I slumped among their fedoras and sarongs, sipping margaritas in the bar, while the wind whipped a whisper of life against my skin.”
Once on the Island, however, Tinashi finds herself caught up in the lives of the other islanders: “By coming to Carmine, I had sought to withdraw into a cradle of my own gloom, and instead found myself distracted by a connection with close strangers.”
The first three stories in the collection have been published elsewhere and the fourth is a new story published for the first time in Glitter Rose. There is also a standalone story, called In the Bookshadow.
Pierres says of the fourth story, Mama Ailon: “I wanted to delve deeper into the true nature of the indigenous community [of Carmine Island]; their silent collusions and implicit understanding of the Island’s needs. Carmine is a beautiful but sinister place, and there is much that Tinashi still does not grasp. The sentiment and themes behind this story were mildly influenced by the iconic Australian film, Wake in Fright.”
Throughout the stories the ambivalent relationship with the setting is maintained over the shifting developments of the plot. This is combined with a look at the close relationships which develop between Tinashi and the other inhabitants of the island in a mix of tropical island living, fantasy intrigue, adventure and intimate drama.
Glitter Rose was launched at AussieCon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, in Melbourne.
More on Marianne de Pierres and her fiction can be found at www.mariannedepierres.com.
The Australian Literature Review