Review from The Australian

Australian short stories with global reach

“The incidents that serve as catalysts for the stories in Julie Chevalier’s debut collection Permission to Lie are steeped in unflinching realism rather than fable, but are nonetheless compelling and complex in equal measure.

A young writer living as a developer’s mistress in the opening story accuses the narrator of the second story, a 40-something executive who uses her vocational counselling diary to chronicle the real and imaginary lives of her fellow bus passengers, of stealing “her” characters.

Seven of the stories are loosely gathered around themes of imprisonment and freedom, beginning with a boy’s home on the NSW central coast, and ending with one foot on the road to re-addiction for a newly released inmate of Sydney’s Long Bay jail.

In between, through shifting narrators, perspectives and prose styles, we meet Kynon, a recent graduate from boys’ home to adult prison, Wanda the prison psychologist, Cathie the education officer and Gav the inmate clerk.

These stories, and Chevalier’s detailed portraits of her cast of wary yet surprisingly open characters, highlight the ways in which relationships of power and vulnerability operate in a state of flux, and how suddenly we can become needful – of shelter, of privacy, of understanding, of real human connections.

When this switch is flicked, Chevalier’s characters, just like the rest of us, occasionally need permission to lie, to themselves and to others. I look forward to meeting whichever characters Chevalier might next introduce me to.”

Reviewed by Josh Mei-Ling Dubrau, a Sydney-based writer, poet and editor. Weekend Australian Review, Aug 13-14, 2011

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