The Inland Sea
In the early 19th century, British explorer John Oxley traversed the then-unknown wilderness of central Australia, in ardent search of water. Oxley never found it, but he never ceased to believe it was out there. The myth of the inland sea was taken up by other men, and over the years search parties walked out into the desert, dying as they tried to find it.
Two centuries later, his great-great-great-great granddaughter (and our narrator) spends her last year in Sydney reeling from her own self-destructive obsessions. She’s working part-time as an emergency dispatch operator, drinking heavily (both with friends and alone), sleeping with strangers, wandering Sydney’s dangerous streets late at night, and navigating an affair with an ex-lover whose girlfriend is in her circle of friends. Her motivations, body, and moral code seem to be corrupted by a maelstrom of impulses and a pervasive sense of menace. Reckless and adrift, she prepares to leave.
The Inland Sea, with its tidal pull and bittersweet nostalgia, calls to mind Pitch Dark by Renata Adler, My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Monkey Grip by Helen Garner. With down-to-earth lucidity and ethereal breeze, Watts perfectly tames themes of feminine fear, dispassion, danger, and longing into a tightly controlled brushfire.
Claire Nozieres manages the translation rights for The Inland Sea