Skip to content

Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Locust Island (Guest post by Amanda) (#BookReview)

January 17, 2019

Late last year I hosted a review of Maria Tumarkin’s Axiomatic by Amanda who had responded to my call on the Australian Women Writers Challenge for reviews of it and Jamie Marina Lau’s Pink Mountain on Locust Island, which won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Readings Residency Award, and was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.  Amanda offered to write reviews of both, and so, as with Axiomatic, I am hosting Amanda’s review, so that it can then be added to the AWW database. Thanks very much – again – Amanda!

Synopsis of Pink Mountain on Lotus Island

From publisher The Lifted Brow’s website:

“Monk lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. When Santa Coy—possible boyfriend, potential accomplice—enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. So begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixelated tutorial videos, and senseless violence.”

Amanda’s review

Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Lotus IslandTwenty-year-old Lau’s debut novel is simultaneously innovative, surreal, disjointed and funny. At her best she writes like a stand-up routine; at her worst, though, she veers into the bizarre and nonsensical: “cardigan metropolis and a hushed voice millennia”; “he was in a creme brulee mood”. I don’t get it either. The chapters are divided into numerous short vignettes and sequences, some only a sentence long and follow a linear timeline. It’s a book for the social media and internet age – perhaps written for those just getting used to reading serious prose after the word limits on Twitter.

Its protagonist Monk is 15, and living with her Xanax-addicted former Art lecturer Dad after the departure of her Mum. It could be set in any urban metropolis with a bustling Chinatown. Along comes the love interest Santa Coy (also a developing artist) and then things get complicated.

There is a narrative though that can be followed, and it is cinematic so you can visually follow her discussions around what makes Art and what people will sacrifice for it, the difficulties of human relationships, and cross cultural complexities.

Food is another obsession – its preparation, consumption, description of, e.g. Yum Cha – and some bizarre discussions. What is the difference physically and philosophically between turnips and yams? Turnips are lively and yams are brooding. Obviously, if you didn’t know this you have to visit the same supermarkets as Monk does. [Haha, love this Amanda.]

Some plot twists are unbelievable and her non-traditional use of metaphors and language often fall flat. Lau (who also makes music under the pseudonym ZK King, hence the musical references in the novel) stated in an interview that she often has several browsers open while writing – reading articles, listening to music etc – and this multimedia multi-tasking is what comes across in her writing and original use of language.

Lau described Monk as the most sincere female character she had created – and that is the strength of this novel, Lau’s authentic portrayal of her teenage Monk as a composite of angst, joy, confusion, curiosity and strength. You just need to get through some bizarre distractions to discover this.

AWW Challenge 2019 BadgeJamie Marina Lau
Pink Mountain on Locust Island
Brow Books, 2018
ISBN: 9780994606884

21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2019 19:34

    I tried to read this, I really did, but I gave up.
    LOL I think I’m the wrong demographic!

    • January 17, 2019 21:21

      I suspect Amanda is too, Lisa … But seems like she was able to see through the “different” culture? I wondered what I would think if I read it.

      • January 17, 2019 23:59

        Well, I like to think that I’m reasonably open to all kinds of books in all kinds of styles, but that doesn’t mean I go on reading something that just doesn’t work for me.

        • January 18, 2019 09:11

          No, that’s fair enough too. Too many books… I know that issue. I realised as soon as I posted that comment that it might come across differently to how I meant it… I must stop writing comments quickly in the car (when someone else is driving of course! I hate typing on the phone so I tend to write shorter and therefore more cryptic comments. BTW I would prefer to talk to the driver that write on my phone, but he often prefers not to be distracted when he’s driving… Hence reverting to my phone!)

        • January 18, 2019 11:38

          Relax, I wasn’t offended:)

        • January 18, 2019 17:36

          Thanks Lisa…

    • February 7, 2019 23:35

      I was just thinking this about myself as I read through the review. Not sure if this is one for me!

  2. January 17, 2019 20:24

    This sounds interesting. I generally like forays into experimental writing. I could see however how such attempts could fall flat. I never heard of a writer who employed such a distraction laden writing style though.

    • January 17, 2019 21:24

      I’m tempted Brian… But I suspect that with my backlog I won’t read it. I should ask the young Gums to give their perspective!

  3. Jeannette permalink
    January 18, 2019 05:36

    Mm, and all this time I thought turnips were stolid, giving rise to the metaphor turnip head, while yams were sweet and tempting. I do understand the creme brulee mood though, me, I’m often in a tiramisu mood.

    (OK it’s 5 am and I can’t sleep, even though it’s dropped to 33 after yesterday’s 46 degrees, and the frogs that have invaded the house from the drying lagoon out the back have slowed down and stopped jumping on me in bed.)

    Re food in novels, I’ve just finished (literally, 30 mins ago) Kerry Greenwood’s latest in her Corrina Chapman series, the bakery sleuth. Not sure what I like best, the sleuthing or the cooking (and there are recipes in the back).

    • January 18, 2019 09:16

      Haha, love this Jeanette. 46°C! That’s puts our 40-41°C in the don’t-complain category.

      I think you should write the sequel to this book! You are clearly sympatico with it!

      I haven’t read that Greenwood series but surely it could make a good TV series. Like a down-under Pie in the sky?

  4. January 21, 2019 18:49

    I’ve been to that cardigan metropolis, in summer it’s a long socks and short sleeved tie shirt metropolis. Run like hell I say. I may also have seen people in a creme brulee mood, if only I knew what creme brulee was. Right now I’m in a cheese sandwich mood and I don’t have any bread.

    • January 21, 2019 19:17

      Haha Bill, I’m in a Chardonnay mood but it’s an alcohol-free day so I’m having to retrain myself to a mineral water mood.


  1. 2019 Stella Prize Longlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  2. #2019StellaPrize Longlist | Theresa Smith Writes
  3. 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  4. 2019 ALS Gold Medal Longlist | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  5. 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards winners | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  6. 2019 SMH Best Young Novelists | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: