The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones

‘Noah Glass was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1946.’

Noah Glass is dead.  His body is discovered, floating face down, fully clothes in the swimming pool of his apartment block in Sydney.  Noah Glass, widowed, the father of two adult children – Martin and Evie, an art historian and specialist in the fifteenth century artist Piero della Francesca, had just returned from a trip to Palermo.  Noah Glass seems to have died of natural causes, but as Martin and Evie find out, he’s a suspect in the theft of a sculpture from a museum in Palermo.  The police are investigating.

Martin and Evie struggle to make sense of what has happened, as does the reader.  Ms Jones takes us back through Noah’s life.  At the same time as we accompany Martin and Evie while they seek to understand Noah’s death and make sense of his life.  Did he steal the sculpture?  And, if he did, why?  Martin travels to Palermo to try to make sense of this mystery.  Evie moves into Noah’s apartment to try to better understand his life.  While Noah Glass is the centre of this novel, the journeys of understanding taken by Martin and Evie are also important.  In looking back over their relationships with Noah, they each need to find their own place in the world.

This novel is part mystery, part romance, partly about the relationships between parents and children and totally engrossing.  The story is non-linear, as is our understanding.  To return to the beginning – the novel opens with a story about a cross-country skier whose body is uncovered in a thaw, decades after his death.  His two sons, in their late seventies, see the body of their forty-two-year-old father.  The reader gains similar glimpses of Noah’s life, as do Martin and Evie.

What more can I tell you about this novel?  As I read it, I was torn between reading quickly (to try to find the answers) and reading slowly (to savour the writing).  I admire the way in which Ms Jones uses the thoughts of the characters to convey so much information to the reader.  This works well because the characters are so well developed.  This is a novel that I will reread at some stage.  Knowing how it ends is only the beginning.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith