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

Echolalia




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 the novel The Island Will Sink, and the memoir Adult Fantasy. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in The Monthly, Meanjin, Overland, The Griffith Review, The Good Weekend, The Guardian, and the Sunday Times. She's performed at the Sydney Festival and Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.She is a lecturer in writing and literature at Deakin University and a 2020 Fulbright Scholar. Echolalia is her second novel.

Praise for Echolalia

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

Discover more

Article
Echolalia book club notes

What could drive a mother to do the unthinkable?

Related titles