Cool Water

Cool Water


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Susan Midalia's Review

Ten years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Myfanwy Jones at the Perth Writers Festival about her debut novel Leap, shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin Award. After writing books for children and publishing short stories in anthologies, Jones has produced a confronting, deeply moving novel about the complexities of masculinity. Cool Water is a triumph of the empathetic imagination, a female writer’s compassionate exploration of three generations of husbands and fathers: their cruelty and vulnerability; their heart-heartedness and capacity for tenderness; their overweening confidence and a shameful fear of failure. The novel is also exquisitely written; every sentence is beautifully crafted. Major and minor characters alike are convincingly drawn. There is also space in this sorrowful story for wise-cracking Aussie humour.

Some sections of Cool Water are loosely based on the true story of a massive dam-building project in the town of Tinaroo in Queensland during the 1950s. The novel uses this event, the product of post-war hubristic ambition, as a backdrop for the lives of the tyrannical Victor Herbert, his son Joe and grandson Frank. Moving backwards and forwards in time, the multiple storylines gradually reveal misunderstandings, resentments and an unfulfilled yearning for intimacy between parents and children, husbands and wives. Jones is particularly skilled at depicting the inner lives of bewildered, inarticulate boys who long for the approval of their censorious, sometimes brutal, fathers. We also hear the voice of the unconventional Evelyn Edwards, who, like the final son in the three generations of men, strives to heal the mistakes of the past.


Cool Water, joins a list of recent impressive novels by Australian authors, including Gail Jones, Melanie Joosten and Amy Brown. Historically informative and keenly observed, its portraits of three troubled fathers and sons will stay with you for a long time. I urge you to support our fine Australian writers and reserve a copy of this wonderful novel.  

Publishers Reviews

'Why this novel? Because we need empathy, understanding, some magic and hope more than ever in our lifetimes.' HOLLY RINGLAND

'Most novels leave us with learnings, but very few refine your character. I left more astute, more empathic, and somehow wiser after I read these pages.' HILDE HINTON

Frank feared a reckoning, but what he feared more was that all the men in his family were cursed.

Frank Herbert's family has gathered at Tinaroo Dam for his daughter Lily's wedding - the first time he's been back since the death of his father, Joe, a year earlier. Like Frank, the dam is at an all-time low and as the water recedes, objects begin to emerge - abstract and disquieting.

Joe's father Victor - Frank's grandfather - was the butcher of Tinaroo during the dam's construction, but Joe refused to speak of him. Joe was not a talker, but he could roar. And he could smash things. What sorrow was his fury, and this place, concealing? And can Frank find a way into a future of his own making?

Moving between the weekend of the wedding and the explosive year in the 1950s that would shape the Herbert men's destiny, Cool Water is an unforgettable novel about fathers and sons, what it means to be a good man, and the damage that can ripple through generations.

A breathtaking story brimming with insight and emotional power by Miles Franklin-shortlisted author Myfanwy Jones.

'Myfanwy Jones has become one of my favourite authors and Cool Water should make her one for any Australian reader. This is a generational novel imbued with grace and grit.' A.S. PATRIC

'Cool Water leaves an enduring imprint. A vivid and profound novel that conjures old hurts from the depths and brings them to the light. I loved this novel.' KATE MILDENHALL

'Crystal-clear prose . . . [An] accomplished novel' SATURDAY PAPER