The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer

‘I first saw Harry Kitchings leaning from a basket which had been lowered over the Katoomba Falls.’

Blue Mountains, Australia, 1907.  A world full of promise and magic, of love and possibility.  A place of rarefied air.  Eureka Jones, a pharmacist’s assistant in Katoomba, watches the tourists as they travel to and fro.  Eureka falls in love with Harry Kitchings, waiting of a declaration of love, and proposal of marriage.  And the town watches and waits with her.

But Harry chooses to marry a widow from Sydney, and Eureka becomes an object of derision.

‘It was as if my own history had ended.’

Eureka commences work at a tuberculosis sanitorium at Wentworth Falls, where Matron Coan tells her that she has historical eyes.  At first, Eureka finds this an enormous comfort but then begins to doubt the virtue of detachment.  But it is this detachment which makes the novel so readable: Eureka observes the decline of Katoomba, the changes as World War I approaches, and then afterwards. Eureka does find affection, briefly, but it is her unrequited love for Harry Kitchings which is at the centre of this novel.

I found this an engrossing story: a world in transition, with the power of photography to capture memories as images.  And everywhere, the clouds and the mist.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith