‘Their twin gestation held the kind of sickly fascination usually reserved for some gruesome act of nature: a fly trapped in a huntsman’s web, a snake swallowing a mouse. Blind little babies, so Mary often imagined, curled up together for nine whole months, their spines aligned, sardine-like. Worst of all, they were naked.’
Thirteen-year-old twins Dominic and Mary have very different natures: Dominic, quiet and serious, is drawn to the natural world, while Mary, a talented artist, is passionate and imaginative. The country town of Kyneton, still grappling with the legacy of World War II, cannot contain her ambitions for a life of creative endeavour.
When their father dies unexpectedly, the reverberations send the two in different directions. Mary escapes to the bohemian haunts of Melbourne while Dominic stays behind, riven by responsibility and an unwavering loyalty to their mother. But the siblings share a special bond, of the kind only twins do, and each struggles with the loss of the other as they begin to carve out new lives. When a secret emerges with the potential to affect them both, will they be drawn together once more?
Set in an era of social constraint and profound scientific discovery, The Science of Appearances explores the inexorable pull of the past and the indelible bond we share with those who know us best. Rendered in beautifully evocative prose, this tender, powerful, touching novel shows how the complex interplay of heredity and environment makes, shapes, and sometimes breaks us.
‘Halloran is a first-class storyteller ... A novel about family secrets, told with pace and power.’
M.J. Hyland, author of the Booker-shortlisted Carry Me Down
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‘Halloran’s writing is skilled and intelligent, her characters compelling, and her settings rich … The journey is recognisable but utterly surprising. Insightful and completely absorbing, its resonance lingers.’
Rosalie Ham, author of the bestseller The Dressmaker
'Exquisitely drawn and emotionally powerful ... A thought-provoking and original coming-of-age novel.'
Cheryl Akle, Better Reading (Pick of the Week)
'Exquisite ... A panoramic portrayal of Melbourne in the years after World War II ... Halloran’s gentleness as a writer belies the strength of her worldly wisdom. She does not see the world through rose-coloured glasses. She appreciates its beauty with honesty.'
Michael McGirr, The Age
'[R]emarkably poetic prose – poetic both because of its rhythmic lyricism and because it so often relies on small details ... The Science of Appearances is a fascinating book, complexly patterned and richly detailed, and particularly adept at building vibrant places – be they Kyneton or St Kilda or Coburg – that feel lived-in and personal. It is keenly interested in the operations of memory, our imaginings of the future and understanding of the past, and the ways in which these things can shift and change across a life. Above all, it is a story about family, in all of its different permutations, and about love – and the kinds of redemption that both of these might offer.'
Fiona Wright, Australian Book Review
‘Jacinta Halloran is one of our finest proponents of moral realism ... Her fine analytical intelligence is matched by compelling, rhythmic prose.’
‘Skilfully evoked … Halloran has her convincingly drawn and very different characters experience some of the mid 20th century’s most exciting and far reaching movements … a lively, informative novel.’
Herald-Sun and Adelaide Advertiser
'My favourite Australian novel of 2016 is Jacinta Halloran’s elegant and engaging The Science of Appearances ... it celebrates those things that make for a flourishing human life: the love of family, a connection to place, and a feeling of belonging, intimacy, sex, art, science, human endeavour, a sense of purpose, hope in the future, and the capacity for moral judgement.'
Peter Mares, ABR Best Books of 2016
'A clever, warm and graceful novel ... The Science of Appearances is perfect for those who want to be reminded that change is always possible.'
‘An evocative story that questions nature versus nurture.’
'The novel captures the social world of 1950s very well, but it wears its research lightly ... The Science of Appearances is absorbing reading, and it raises all kinds of issues for thoughtful people to discuss.'
'Halloran’s prose is elegant—it nicely mirrors the social constraints of the time she’s writing about ... The novel’s strength lies in its evocation of mid-20th century Melbourne and its bohemian arts scene. Halloran’s vibrant descriptions of St Kilda and Carlton offer a pleasant postcard to Melbourne’s past.'
'Halloran is a wonderfully elegant and intimate writer who is enormously gifted in her creation of space and characters. It was a delight to be part of the lives and struggles of these two very different siblings, and watch them as they really came to understand and connect with one another and their new lives ... I enjoyed this book immensely.'
Roan Scott, Lip magazine
'A superb observation into the complexities of the human spirit ... Moving on many levels, this is a haunting novel of the choices we make in the pursuit of truth and happiness, a spotlight on the overt social constraints on women and hidden but equally powerful family ties that bind us all. With graceful writing and insightful observations of the human spirit, this is a wondrous read.'
Great Escape Books
‘[Halloran's] knowledge of science underpins the story, but it is her beautiful prose that draws the reader in … [A] lovely portrait of its time.’