2022 Reviews · contemporary fiction · new release · Read along · Tandem Collective Readalong

New Release Book Review: Marshmallow by Victoria Hannan

Title: Marshmallow

Author: Victoria Hannan

Published: August 31st 2022

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 320

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

A year ago the house had been full of life, of noise, of love. Now there were long stretches of silence that settled between them like a fog so dense it made it hard to see a way out, made it hard for them to see each other . . . He was losing sight of the only thing he’d ever truly been certain about.

Some moments change everything. For five friends, what should have been a birthday to remember will instead cleave a line between before and after. From then on, the shockwaves of guilt, sorrow and disbelief will colour every day, every interaction, every possibility. Each will struggle. Each will ask why. Secrets will be kept. Lies will be told. Relationships reassessed. Each friend will be forever changed. And the question all of them will be forced to ask is: can they ever find a way to live without what was lost?

A raw, powerful novel from the prize-winning author of Kokomo that exposes the ripple effect of grief. With profound insight and a tender heart, Marshmallow shows how quickly the life you thought you had can be shattered forever.

Review:

‘He wanted it to speak. If he were in a film or a book, the bird would speak to him. The bird would come to him with a message. It would forgive him, it would bury his grief in its nest, it would set him free.’

Victoria Hannan was the 2019 winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, which saw her first novel Kokomo optioned by Hachette Australia. Hannan returns with her second novel Marshmallow. A grief literature placed story, Marshmallow offers a visceral exploration of loss from the divided perspectives of five close friends.

Life can change in an instant, which is a lesson five friends must learn tragically when a terrible accident occurs at a celebration.  A birthday party sets these friends on a course of destruction, self-examination, guilt, blame and sadness as they grapple with the choices that they made that fateful day. The aftermath of this celebration turned nightmare scenario has a ripple effect for each adult involved. Marshmallow allows Victoria Hannan to open up a frank conversation about loss, lies, secrets, relationship breakdown and sorrow. Each character is assessed individually as Hannan reminds us that grief is such a personal journey.  Can this friendship circle move on after such an earth-shattering event?

Victoria Hannan’s first novel Kokomo has been languishing on my shelves unread since it was released last year. I have been meaning to investigate this Melbourne based writer’s work since Kokomo was published. A large and overwhelming review schedule has meant Hannan’s debut has been put aside for now, so my introduction to this photographer and writer’s work came via a readalong invitation from Tandem Global Collective. Marshmallow is a sensitive and compassionate story that details the process of grief from a variety of constructed viewpoints, not just the immediate loved ones involved. I thought this was quite a good angle to take when looking at this difficult subject.

Marshmallow is book that you need to be in the right headspace to fully appreciate and experience. There are some definite triggers around loss and grief of a young child so please tread with caution and have a box of tissues on hand. Hannan doesn’t inject too much drama or sentiment into Marshmallow, rather the focus is on the sense of guilt and regret felt by the cast. The tone Hannan takes is quite bruised, openly raw and honest. I haven’t been touched by grief as closely as the protagonists in this book but I did feel that Hannan seemed to capture the sorrow felt by all with credibility. There were times when I really wanted to reach out, shake and beg these characters in the book to communicate more! I did find that due to the volume of different voices handled it was a bit hard for me to stay in the zone and remain fully connected to the whole cast. The feelings these figures experience is quite like a rollercoaster at times, especially the lows. However, I will stress that there are obvious moments of promise and optimism carefully weaved in Marshmallow.

The past and present concurrent timeline that shapes Marshmallow helps the reader to build a better picture in their mind of the tragic event that defines this tale. The prose is quite pointed and the simplicity of Hannan’s penmanship is what struck me the most about Marshmallow. With themes of sadness, regret, blame, guilt self-examination, relationships, friendships, parenting, care, health and desperation ruling Marshmallow, there is no denying that this is an emotionally trying tale.

Hannan’s second novel is a tale that will undeniably pull at your heartstrings. I appreciated the concept exploration of grief and divided loss. I am still not entirely sure if I connected to Marshmallow as much as I wanted to but Hannan’s new novel is definitely one that will make you ache.

Marshmallow by Victoria Hannan is published by Hachette Australia on August 31st 2022. $29.99.

https://www.hachette.com.au/victoria-hannan/marshmallow


To learn more about the author of Marshmallow, Victoria Hannan visit here.


*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

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