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  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760899615
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99


Longlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Award

Longlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Award
What might drive a mother to do the unthinkable?

What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable?
Before: Emma Cormac married into a perfect life but now she's barely coping. Inside a brand new, palatial home, her three young children need more than she can give. Clem, a wilful four year old, is intent on mimicking her grandmother; the formidable matriarch Pat Cormac. Arthur is almost three and still won't speak. At least baby Robbie is perfect. He's the future of the family. So why can't Emma hold him without wanting to scream?
Beyond their gleaming windows, a lake vista is evaporating. The birds have mostly disappeared, too. All over Shorehaven, the Cormac family buys up land to develop into cheap housing for people they openly scorn.

After: The summers have grown even fiercer and the Cormac name doesn't mean what it used to. Arthur has taken it abroad, far from a family unable to understand him. Clem is a young artist who turns obsessively to the same dark subject. Pat doesn't even know what legacy means now. Not since the ground started sinking beneath her.
Meanwhile, a nameless woman has been released from state care. She sticks to her twelve-step program, recites her affirmations, works one day at a time on a humble life devoid of ambition or redemption. How can she have an after when baby Robbie doesn't?

  • Published: 1 June 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760899615
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Briohny Doyle

Briohny Doyle is the author of Echolalia, Adult Fantasy and The Island Will Sink. Her books have been recognised on lists for The Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and The Melbourne Prize for Literature. Her writing has appeared in The Monthly, The Guardian, Meanjin, The Griffith Review, and The Age. She is a lecturer in creative writing at The University of Sydney, and a former Fulbright scholar.

Also by Briohny Doyle

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Praise for Echolalia

This is a beautifully constructed novel with a great handle on tension and suspense. The descriptions of urban decay and rising heat are vivid, and the conditions for all characters, and their motivations, are both complex and believable. Echolalia is a novel that challenges: it asks difficult questions about how we live our lives, and what sacrifices we are willing to make for the people we love and the world we live in. Doyle holds up a mirror to our collective failings, and yet the novel remains intimate and deeply rooted in the individual experience. It's a book that has the power to bring about real change.

Judges, 2022 VPLA Awards

Echolalia just kept surprising me - every time I thought I could take it for granted it shook me up all over again. It's so great to read a novel that incorporates climate change as a lived reality rather than a futuristic dystopia, and that interweaves it with capitalism and colonialism and class issues. Briohny has formidable talent and exceptional skill.

Jane Rawson

Briohny Doyle is one of the most original writers working today. In Echolalia, she finds out things we don’t want to know about women and men, land and climate, how they break and what sustains them, and renders them in gorgeous prose and amazing empathy. This is a beautiful, calm, frightening novel that digs into the unconscious of settler Australia and tells it like a lucid fever dream.

Ronnie Scott

Echolalia, Briohny Doyle’s skilful second novel, concerns a family on the verge of disintegration. Skipping elegantly between chapters set before and after a traumatic event that changes the family irrevocably, it explores not only the aftermath of the event in question, but also its impetus. Echolalia is an ambitious book, tackling the enormous impact of trauma and how the lineage of misogyny is passed down through the generations, as well as how climate change ravages a landscape, but Doyle’s assured and empathetic writing is more than up to the task.

Jack Rowland, Bookseller + Publisher

A wonderful novel, beautifully written. 5 stars

Rowena Morcom, Good Reading Magazine

Echolalia is written like a compelling domestic thriller but acts as an unsparing indictment on the lack of support provided to women experiencing trauma, post-natal depression and psychosis. As we follow Emma through the endlessly repeating frames of her time before and time after, Doyle expertly controls the novel’s various tensions. Echolalia speaks to violence on an intimate, cultural and environmental level, exploring the imprint violence leaves on people and our surroundings, as much as what it takes from us. Echolalia is an accomplished, at times provocative, piece of fiction.

Bec Kavanagh, Readings

Doyle doesn’t just build the book to this crescendo, though. Without dislocating the reader, she deftly takes us straight into the aftermath, skipping forward in time to reveal the impacts of the catastrophe on the family, and the impacts of development and corruption on the town more than a decade later. Her ability to weave together the perspectives of three generations is impressive; it’s possible to forget that this is a second novel, and not the work of an author with decades’ of work behind them. The writing is rich with motif, with seemingly innocuous images becoming darkly relevant as the story is revealed. Pat’s new horse, for instance – purchased as a birthday present to herself, and brimming with youth and promise – returns decades later as a decrepit and aged animal limping through its final days, much like the family reckoning with the decaying town they built. Likewise a beach in Indonesia – tumultuous and stormy – becomes the scene of a reckoning between two middle-aged cousins, forced to atone for their sins in an ocean as violent as their anger. These are scenes that stay with the reader for weeks, with layers of meaning that keep turning over and revealing themselves after reading. Echolalia is a highly accomplished novel from a writer who is swiftly proving herself to be a key force in our literary landscape.

Zoya Patel, The Guardian

Briohny Doyle shows up the social and cultural structures complicit in a woman's 'unthinkable' act, set in a scarily familiar colonial hellscape. Dark and deeply empathetic and weirdly readable and (i think) bleakly funny. Read it please.

Rebecca Harkins Cross

Echolalia pivots on a single traumatic event but its ambit is far more reaching; the event is like the crest of a wave that generates ripples across time. The protagonist’s drained emotional well and the unrelenting heat of Shorehaven are congruent with the author’s continuing interest in futurity, environmental degradation and climate change. But Echolalia is also about motherhood, and Doyle writes perceptively and sympathetically about Emma’s struggles with circumstances both internal and external. Emma had married into a robust family and gained a valuable surname, but at what cost? There’s a sense that Doyle is extending her interest in examining the mythologies of adulthood from her earlier work.

Thuy On, The Guardian

Echolalia, as a form of difference, is what Doyle’s writing is concerned with generally: the atypical, the ignored, the marginalised. Those who are not strong, or successful, or stoic. Those who seek softness rather than hardness. Echolalia’s prescribed notions of how to live – and those who employ these notions as a bludgeon with which to bully others – are the ultimate psycho killer. Within the fictitious regional setting of the book, Shorehaven, and its neighbouring city, refugees are invisible, colonial guilt ethereal but ever-present, and Emma’s grammar school a slow torture of “adolescent dominion”. Emma’s mistake is her failure to consciously choose a life she wants. Instead, she unthinkingly slips into one provided by her in-laws. Her world becomes guarded by the Cormac family’s fear of aberrance, their willingness to watch the world burn if it means real estate prices keep improving. There are no bunnies on the stove here. There don’t need to be: the calls are coming from inside the house.

Declan Fry, The Age

Echolalia is a smart novel, but it is also a compassionate one, and it builds to a conclusion as thrilling as it is philosophical. This is a work of horror for the end of the Anthropocene that reminds us of humanity’s capacity to preserve as well as destroy.

Vanessa Francesca, ArtsHub

A powerfully realist novel, climate is so cleverly a part of the story. Really lovely writing, an extraordinary novel, beautifully developed and beautifully done.

Kate Evans, Radio National The Bookshelf

A lake drying up is the motif. Without explicitly stating so, the climate makes up the background of this novel, it is cleverly done. The characters are gently drawa\n, there is not an easy conclusion in this novel and it is handled sensitively. This is lovely writing.

Michael Dulaney, Radio National The Bookshelf

Echolalia is a gorgeous example of Australian literature: poetic writing where family tensions are set against dramatically changing landscapes. Emma is a beautifully written and complex character who is torn between wanting her family and the forces and powers of her husband and in-laws. While toucing on family dramas, class struggles, and over-development, it'simposible to walk away from this book without feeling anything.

Lexie, Better Read than Dead

Doyle's writing is powerful ... exploring trauma, intergeneration grief and questions of morality, with great skill. Echolalia is masterful storytelling. Grab a copy!

Mandy Beaumont, The Big Issue

A wonderful novel, beautifully written with a great narrative structure.

Neale, Good Reading Magazine

A really beautifully disturbing book, it has this sunny, sinister aspect [of] a Shirley Jackson. A mature, and immense work .. a significant Australian novel.

David Astle, ABC Radio Melbourne

Echolalia, sprawls among psychothriller, crime, speculative and literary fiction to make a highly original mark on the publishing landscape as she wrestles with and departs from the tropes of those genres. It’s not so often that such environmentally charged fiction constitutes what is considered a ‘page-turner’, but Echolalia is something different—undercurrents of tension simmer beneath the cool exterior of Doyle’s prose as she eschews one hero’s journey in favour of a family unit’s unravelling. Much like the climate and extinction crises, there are no easy answers in Echolalia. It seeks to address the question posed in the novel’s blurb: What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable? Echolalia is a story that won’t console, but it recognises how patterns of human behaviour endure, creating harmful inheritances that become impossible to repair. Doyle never shies away from this ugliness. As her fiction speaks to future generations, the words of Clem resonate from the centre of the novel: ‘You can’t feel another’s loss but you can attend to it. You can refuse to look away.’

Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn, Meanjin

I closed the pages of Briohny Doyle’s Echolalia with a sigh of satisfaction at its beautiful construction and timeliness. The actions of her protagonist, Emma, seem a pertinent reaction to our zeitgeist. Echolalia has barely a hair out of place. Doyle holds off on revealing the particulars of Emma’s tragedy until the final few pages, forcing the reader to wait as the ‘Before’ sections finally meet with the ‘After’ sections. She tucks other secrets into the final few chapters, underscoring Patricia’s savagery and its aftermath. This technique of interleaving the past and present is masterful, building suspense as the reader strives to piece together how the two time frames fit.

Jessica White, Sydney Review of Books

Echolalia is an ambitious book, tackling the enormous impact of trauma and how the lineage of misogyny is passed down through the generations, as well as how climate change ravages a landscape, but Doyle’s assured and empathetic writing is more than up to the task.

Jack Rowland, Bookseller + Publisher

Awards & recognition

The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

Shortlisted  •  2021  •  The Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction

The Miles Franklin Literary Award

Longlisted  •  2022  •  The Miles Franklin Literary Award

Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2022  •  Fiction

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Echolalia book club notes

What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable?