This is a powerful book. The story is about the brutal murder of a young 25-year-old Bella Michaels – except it’s not about that at all. It’s about her life in a small Australian town called Strathdee, her sister Chris, Chris’ ex-husband, her colleagues at the aged-care center where she worked, her neighbours, the journalist reporting the story.
After reading it, I was googling whether the incident had actually happened, which it didn’t, but the problem is: it could have. A variation probably has. I wasn’t reading thinking “how did the author even think of this?” because she didn’t need to. Emily Maguire has not written a whodunit crime novel focused around the murder itself, but rather explores the intense experiences of those left in the wake of such violent crime.
She has expertly exposed the underbelly of the society that causes such crimes: misogyny, domestic violence, society’s obsession with being a part of the drama, the way the media portrays and commercialises tragedy and the way we often get lost in sensationalism, forgetting about the human beings behind the news clips.
It points an accusatory finger at everyone involved in the process of taking a loss and extrapolating it into a symbol. It doesn’t attempt to make sweeping, all-inclusive statements about violence against women, because it shows that just through the personal lives of all those involved and affected. I think An Isolated Incident is just what society needs to read right now.
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