A gripping tale of ghosts that sweeps across three time periods, Rose Michael’s The Art of Navigation explores spirituality and possession, and the links we have to the past and future.
One night in 1987, three girls spend a wild night engaged in everything you’d expect teenage girls to get involved in – sex, drink, drugs and a séance. As the trio attempt to connect with bushranger Ned Kelly using an old ouija board, their half-serious psychic attempt swiftly takes a more gothic turn. Among it all, 17-year-old Nat starts having visions linking her to alchemist and crystal ball ‘scryer’ Edward Kelly, who works for Elizabeth I’s astrologist Doctor Dee in 1587. Heading the other way, her experience is also linked to her descendants in 2087.
Spooky, sprawling and ambitious, The Art of Navigation carries echoes of David Mitchell and Michel Faber, with a hint of Hilary Mantel thrown in for good measure. Beautiful in it’s strangeness, the language weaves a spell that creates dreamlike settings for each of the three time periods. Michael moves effortlessly between modern Melbourne and Elizabethan Britain, before jumping ahead to the not-too-distant 2087. Part-historical fiction, part-sci-fi, part-speculative fiction, it’s literary and engaging, proving Michael’s skill as a gifted storyteller and writer.
The Art of Navigation is at times deeply unnerving, weaving ideas of memory, time and history through explorations of our own understanding of spirituality. It’s a riveting but contemplative read, and one that will no doubt be enjoyed for many years to come.