Almost a Mirror by Kirsten Krauth

THE GUARDIAN’s TOP 20 AUSTRALIAN BOOKS OF 2020

SHORTLISTED 2021 SPN BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD

SHORTLISTED PENGUIN LITERARY PRIZE

What we make of memories and what they make of us.

Like fireflies to the light, Mona, Benny and Jimmy are drawn into the elegantly wasted orbit of the Crystal Ballroom and the post-punk scene of 80s Melbourne, a world that includes Nick Cave and Dodge, a photographer pushing his art to the edge.

With precision and richness Kirsten Krauth hauntingly evokes the power of music to infuse our lives, while diving deep into loss, beauty, innocence and agency. Filled with unforgettable characters, the novel is above all about the shapes that love can take and the many ways we express tenderness throughout a lifetime.

As it moves between the Blue Mountains and Melbourne, Sydney and Castlemaine, Almost a Mirror reflects on the healing power of creativity and the everyday sacredness of family and friendship in the face of unexpected tragedy.

Reviews

Kirsten Tranter

“Imagine a perfect pop song covered by a hard-core punk band – Almost a Mirror will get stuck in your head in just the same way. A fierce, elegiac dissection of nostalgia, longing and loss, the novel fearlessly explores the true Janus face of art: creation and destruction, rebirth and ecstatic annihilation, trauma and remaking. The poised restraint of Kirsten Krauth’s prose makes everything else out there seem overwritten.”

Kirsten Tranter

“Almost like a jagged sharp-edged puzzle of a book … it’s almost as if she was treating her novel a bit like a mirror and smashed it into puzzle pieces for us to put back together in the reading … Music really holds this together. It’s almost as if each chapter is a single in a mixtape … your mixtape was the songs you loved in the order you wanted it and that’s what she’s done with this book. What happens is all out of order but it then creates this album of these characters’ lives and she does it really well … I could almost sing every song … I thought of A Visit From the Goon Squad … because of the way some of the chapters are presented”

“Kirsten Krauth is a damn fine writer of amazing insight and empathy. I don’t believe there’s any character she couldn’t get me to empathise with, any story she couldn’t make me care deeply about.”

Emily Maguire

“Released in the early days of the pandemic, you may have missed this gem of a novel. A book about relationships, music, culture and youth, Almost a Mirror is set in the post-punk scene of 80s Melbourne (as well as the Blue Mountains, Sydney and Castlemaine). There are echoes here of Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip in the descriptions of Melbourne, music, drugs – along with the men who are in thrall to them and the women left behind. Krauth’s gift is to drop you into a fully formed and realised world, and the devil is in the details: what kids in the 1980s were wearing, listening to, drinking, ingesting and smoking is on point.”

Brigid Delaney, The Guardian

” … mirroring some of the other great novels of coming of age that we’ve enjoyed over the years … Sally Rooney’s Normal People but with a much more Melbourne musical twist … “This is what I really love about novels that have such a powerful place and time is that it’s almost like a palimpsest, you’re writing over something where there’s already something written, there are already histories written, and you’re adding your layers of history and writing to it and so it becomes something with great depth and connection.”

Virginia Trioli, ABC Radio Melbourne

“Here a detailed and vivid nostalgia for the subculture of Melbourne’s 1980s post-punk music scene is played off against the regional calm of Castlemaine and the gentler and less fragmented exploration of young love, mature motherhood, and the reverberations of childhood damage. Mona and Jimmy are young lovers whose devotion, complicated by various secondary characters, stays the course for longer than you’d expect. Much is made of the interrelations between life and art in its various forms. Readers nostalgic for St Kilda’s Crystal Ballroom in the 1980s will find plenty in this book to speak to them, while other readers will admire Kirsten Krauth’s skill in such virtuoso passages as the one describing the art of making musical instruments, or in recreating the conversations that parents have with children.”

Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Age/Sydney Morning Herald

Festivals, gigs & media

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Almost a Mirror show with Paul McDermott and Michael Simic at Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival
  • The Good News Week team night with Craig Silvey, Mikey Robbins, Bob Brown and Rhoda Roberts at Bellingen
  • Wednesday Night Book Club with Tracey Spicer and Ginger Gorman
  • International Women’s Day with Zoe Barry at the Taproom with Northern Books
  • Zoe and I doing Wide Open Road at the 2021 SPN Book of the Year Awards on Instagram
  • Appearing with Arnold Zable talking about music and memory for Glen Eira Library with Claire Halligan
  • Launching a book during lockdown online with my kids in my lounge room
  • Auctioning off Nick Cave’s suit for #authorsforfireys and receiving it in the mail before delivering it to author Andy Griffiths
  • Having my book interpreted by visual artist Dianna Jacono for the Biblio Art Prize in Port Fairy and visiting the exhibition and purchasing the beautiful artwork
  • Talking to Virginia Trioli on Radio National about her Ballroom experience and Kate Evans about my bookshelf