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Driving into the Sun

Written by Marcella Polain


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For Orla, living in the suburbs in 1968 on the cusp of adolescence, her father is a great shining light, whose warm and powerful presence fills her world.
But in the aftermath of his sudden death, Orla, her mother and her sister are left in a no-man’s-land, a place where the rights and protections of the nuclear family suddenly and mysteriously no longer apply, and where the path between girl and woman must be navigated alone.


'Driving into the Sun is a truly beautiful book, imaginatively dense, tender, full of respect for children and the vivacity of their inner worlds. The vision here is original and brilliantly true …’ Gail Jones

'This is an engaging and confronting novel that explores the resounding impact of grief.' Books+Publishing

'Driving into the Sun is a lyrical book ... Phrases are cut off or repeated, giving the prose a poetic quality that’s a pleasure to read ... Orla’s naïveté and experiences of grief are moving, making for a slow coming-of-age story – with a shocking conclusion.' Adelaide Advertiser

'The tension in Marcella Polain's Driving into the Sun is more palpable than some crime novels, and I found myself hunched over the pages in a cold sweat.' Perth Voice

'A child’s interior world is densely evoked in this warm novel about an immigrant Irish family in Perth in the 60s. There’s also the terror and uncertainty of negotiating a world where nothing makes much sense, and where adults behave in ways that are incomprehensible to children decimated by grief. Marcella Polain’s storytelling is both thoughtful and lyrical and needs to be read slowly with frequent breaks to absorb the shifts, descriptions and interiority.' writingWA

'This is a novel of great tenderness ... But it is also a tale of menace imagined and real: the conclusion is monstrous and a foul betrayal ... The focus of this novel is the child’s world, dealing with an incomprehensible grief and betrayals she does not understand, while at the same time struggling with yearning for childhood dreams of a friend, a horse, and a sense of security.' ANZ LitLovers

'This is a powerful evocation of what it’s like to be a child who does not feel safe in the world ... tension and suspense are created by the fearfulness of 11-year-old Orla and the desperation of her mother ... evocative and original writing ...' Sydney Morning Herald 

'Driving Into the Sun deserves to share shelf space with The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea and The Shark Net for its evocative description of Australian childhood in a much-mythologised decade.' Australian Book Review

'Marcella Polain’s Driving into the Sun is a tightly-crafted novel about a family suffering the loss of a husband and father in 1960s Australia ... [that] ultimately succeeds at the very difficult task of evoking a child’s point of view. Westerly

ISBN 9781925591996 (Paperback)
Formats B+ Format (208 x 140mm) (Paperback)
Categories Book Club Reads
Mother's Day 2021
Publisher Fremantle Press
Edition 1st
Publication Year 2019
Pages 312
Rights World
  • Marcella web size

    Marcella Polain

    Dr Marcella Polain was born in Singapore and immigrated to Perth when she was two years old, with her Armenian mother and Irish father. She has a background in theatre and screen writing, and has lectured in the Writing program at Edith Cowan University. She was founding WA editor for the national poetry journal Blue Dog, has been poetry editor for Westerly and was inaugural editor for the WA journal Indigo. She has published essays on writing and completed her PhD at the University of Western Australia in 2006. Read more