Fiction review: Graffiti Moon

Downtown Yarraville is, in its own right, a great place to be on a sunny winter’s Sunday afternoon – if you haven’t been west for a while, maybe it’s time. It is an especially pleasant destination if you are lucky enough to be attending the book launch of a respected Australian author.

Grafitti MoonHosted by the Younger Sun Bookshop and held in the art deco glory of the Sun cinema, the launch of Graffiti Moon, the latest YA novel from local writer, Cath Crowley, was an elegant, modest and warm affair – much like the woman herself.

An inspiration to me, and I’m sure to many writers, Cath Crowley was first published by Pan Macmillan in 2004 and has since published six novels with a seventh on the way and established a full-time career as a writer and educator.

While I was in Europe I wrote letters to my brother, who later turned them into a musical called The Journey Girl. After that I studied professional writing at RMIT TAFE. I wrote articles for papers and magazines. Then finally I wrote The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain and things took off from there.

‘Took off’ indeed. Cath has since published Charlie Duskin (2005), Gracie Faltrain Takes Control (2006), Gracie Faltrain Gets It Right (Finally) (2008), A Little Wanting Song – the US release of Charlie Duskin – (June, 2010) and Graffiti Moon (August, 2010). Her most recent work, Rose Staples’ Minor Magical Misunderstanding, will be published in September.

In her speech to launch Graffiti Moon, Gabrielle Wang advised us to rebel against the urge to ‘read it all in one go’ – in order to savour the beauty of Cath’s prose. Unless time prohibits you, I dare you to resist.

Year 12 is over – the last day done, eggings and all. In the course of one night, Graffiti Moon follows the fortunes of a group of teenagers let loose in the Melbourne night. Lucy is obsessed with discovering the identity of the object of her desires – elusive graff artist, Shadow, and his partner in crime, Poet.

Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests.

Ed knows where all Shadow’s pieces are to be found but has his own reasons for protecting the artist’s secrets.

Ed and Lucy’s voices alternate in a structure reminiscent of Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. However, Cath’s novel includes Poet in the narrative mix and the protagonists exist in relationship to their friends, who also feature strongly in the story. Personally, I never really warmed to Nora – but I love Lucy.

The novel embraces some dark themes – hopelessness, poverty, fatherlessness, grief, illiteracy, violence – and manages them with uplifting pathos, tempering their effects with the power of hope, art, friendship, humour and love.

I did read Graffiti Moon ‘all in one go’ – interrupted by various life-experiences that included going to the theatre and feeding the pets. Eventually, sitting up in bed far too late, I didn’t so much read the book, as devour it. I loved the voice and the seductive ‘simplicity’ that takes such skill to accomplish.

Catch Cath Crowley at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival and while you’re there, however old you are, buy yourself a copy of Graffiti Moon.

Clare Strahan

Clare Strahan is a two-time novelist with Allen & Unwin publishers, long-ago contributing editor to Overland, and teaches in the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing Associate Degree.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. Hi Clare, I really wish I’d hadn’t read this review because the last thing I need is another book to read (especially as I’m trying to get through Malcolm Fraser’s memoirs – quite a good read but lengthy). But you’ve enticed me and so it looks like I’ll add another book to the avalanche beside my bed.

    1. Sorry Trish – I know you what you mean. But if you enjoy YA, you’ll romp through this and Malcolm won’t even have missed you 🙂

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