The Salt Madonna
Westerly editor Catherine Noske’s debut novel The Salt Madonna delivers a searing indictment of mob mentality and the stories people will tell – and fervently believe – to sustain their way of life. Schoolteacher Hannah Mulvey returns to the small, isolated community on (fictional) Chesil Island, where her mother is dying. When ‘miracles’ appear to coincide with a girl in Year 9 withdrawing into herself, rumours and proclamations of faith shut out any chance of seeking out the truth. Noske’s evocative depictions of rural landscapes and small town dynamics are masterful – this is Australian Gothic in contemporary form. Less a whodunnit (there are no easy answers here) and more an exploration of character in response to moments of violence, this novel is best suited to fans of literary fiction.