The Restorer

The Restorer

After a year apart, Maryanne returns to her husband, Roy, bringing their eight-year-old son Daniel and his teenage sister Freya with her. The family move from Sydney to Newcastle, where Roy has bought a derelict house on the coast.As Roy painstakingly patches the holes in the floorboards and plasters over cracks in the walls, Maryanne believes, for a while, that they can r...

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Title:The Restorer
Author:Michael Sala
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Edition Language:English

The Restorer Reviews

  • Text Publishing

    The Restorer

    The Restorer

    ‘The Restorer

    ‘The Restorer

    ‘The Restorer

  • Marianne

    “Some nights sleep wouldn’t come to her at all. A wakefulness bloomed in her, so intense it was as if something made of needles was trying to claw its way out. She’d watch the dawn spread over the street”

    The Restorer is the second novel by Dutch-born Australian author, Michael Sala. When Maryanne arrives with her children at the house in East Newcastle that her estranged husband has bought, it is with hope that they can restore their relationship to its earlier, more stable state. The house is a

    “Some nights sleep wouldn’t come to her at all. A wakefulness bloomed in her, so intense it was as if something made of needles was trying to claw its way out. She’d watch the dawn spread over the street”

    The Restorer is the second novel by Dutch-born Australian author, Michael Sala. When Maryanne arrives with her children at the house in East Newcastle that her estranged husband has bought, it is with hope that they can restore their relationship to its earlier, more stable state. The house is a dump, but Roy is confident he will have it fully liveable or saleable within a year.

    Not everyone shares his enthusiasm for the move. Fourteen-year-old Freya is resentful of being torn away from Sydney, her friends and her nan; eight-year-old Daniel is still acting too vague and dreamy, too sheltered by Maryanne, for Roy’s liking. As the months go by and Roy’s behaviour regresses, Maryanne’s certainty about her decision to give it another chance begins to erode.

    Sala tells his story using two main narrators: Maryanne provides the perspective of a woman trying to balance a relationship with the man she loves and the imperative to protect her children from harm; Freya gives the point of view of an adolescent growing up in a family filled with hidden tensions, with a background of which she is more aware than anyone realises; next-door neighbour Richard’s short but prescient narrative bookends these two.

    Sala’s beautiful descriptive prose effortlessly captures his setting: Newcastle locals will easily recognise their city. His mention of significant events anchors his tale firmly in the year 1989. His descriptions of weather are especially evocative: “…the weather had turned on its head the way it did on the coast, everything – the warmth, the calm, the clarity – thrown away, rain coming over at unpredictable moments, on again, off again, pummelling its fists against the windows and the roof, then fragments of blue stumbling across the sky, a sudden burst of intolerable sun, before the clouds locked back into place again and it was all humidity, and waiting, just waiting, for something to break”

    His characters are multi-faceted and realistically flawed; their dialogue is natural and their behaviour quite believable, although Maryanne gives Freya more freedom than many mothers would a fourteen-year-old. Sala touches on many topical issues, as well as some that are timeless: feelings of inadequacy, lack of trust, domestic violence, teens hormones and upheaval, suicide, drugs, alcohol, mental cruelty, and anger management all feature. This is a powerful, moving read.

  • Tracey

    This was a beautifully written, suspenseful read that I could not put down. The sense of place set in 1989 Newcastle Australia was wonderful and vivid. The characters were well drawn especially that of Freya who reminded me of girls I had grown up with in the 80's. The portrayal of a dysfunctional family was very well rendered and whilst set in Newcastle it could have been anywhere in Australia. Heartbreaking, from the first page you are on an unknown trajectory. A path you know won't end well b

    This was a beautifully written, suspenseful read that I could not put down. The sense of place set in 1989 Newcastle Australia was wonderful and vivid. The characters were well drawn especially that of Freya who reminded me of girls I had grown up with in the 80's. The portrayal of a dysfunctional family was very well rendered and whilst set in Newcastle it could have been anywhere in Australia. Heartbreaking, from the first page you are on an unknown trajectory. A path you know won't end well but you are too captivated to stop. A great read.

  • Tundra

    This book was both compulsive and repulsive as it dragged you on a destructive path to an ending that you just wanted to avoid. The tension ebbed and grew through the changing seasons, dialogue and physical descriptions of the characters. It was powerful and attacked the reader from all sides. This felt real in time, setting and plot and captured my attention from the first page.

  • Mandy

    In this incredibly powerful and suspenseful novel of family dysfunction, Roy, Maryanne and their two children Freya and Daniel, move from Sydney to Newcastle, Australia, to start a new life. It gradually becomes clear that something bad has happened in the past, and now Roy has bought this dilapidated and derelict house to restore and at the same time restore his family. With brilliant characterisation, flawless dialogue and a vivid and atmospheric sense of place, this is one of the most unputdo

    In this incredibly powerful and suspenseful novel of family dysfunction, Roy, Maryanne and their two children Freya and Daniel, move from Sydney to Newcastle, Australia, to start a new life. It gradually becomes clear that something bad has happened in the past, and now Roy has bought this dilapidated and derelict house to restore and at the same time restore his family. With brilliant characterisation, flawless dialogue and a vivid and atmospheric sense of place, this is one of the most unputdownable books I have ever read, chilling and unpredictable in its exposition and written with expert timing and pace. It becomes increasingly obvious that Roy is a ticking time-bomb and is one of the most frightening men I have ever encountered in fiction. The tension builds and builds and I defy anyone not to hold their breath reading this excellent, if deeply disturbing, novel. Highly recommended.

  • Carole

    Set by the sea in Newcastle, Australia, this book reminded me a lot of Tim Winton's novels. Maryanne and Roy are giving their marriage another try and have moved to a derelict house that Roy intends to do up. Their teenage daughter Freya is struggling to settle into her new school, and actually just to settle into her life! And the young son Daniel, has something a bit off about him (all is revealed later). The combination of Freya's coming of age and her parents' tattered marriage works well, a

    Set by the sea in Newcastle, Australia, this book reminded me a lot of Tim Winton's novels. Maryanne and Roy are giving their marriage another try and have moved to a derelict house that Roy intends to do up. Their teenage daughter Freya is struggling to settle into her new school, and actually just to settle into her life! And the young son Daniel, has something a bit off about him (all is revealed later). The combination of Freya's coming of age and her parents' tattered marriage works well, and of course as the plot progresses things start to unravel. I enjoyed the way this novel was written - told from Freya and Maryanne's points of view, and with the setting being a major component.

  • Carolyn

    Moving to Newcastle was meant to be a new start for Roy, Maryanne and their children Freya and Daniel. A new house, new schools, new jobs, a change of scene to help them re-unite after a year spent apart. But from the start, nothing seems to work out as planned. The house is a derelict mess, trashed and damaged by squatters. Roy immediately sets to work to clean and renovate it and make it fit to be a family house again but he is still seething with anger against Maryanne for leaving him and the

    Moving to Newcastle was meant to be a new start for Roy, Maryanne and their children Freya and Daniel. A new house, new schools, new jobs, a change of scene to help them re-unite after a year spent apart. But from the start, nothing seems to work out as planned. The house is a derelict mess, trashed and damaged by squatters. Roy immediately sets to work to clean and renovate it and make it fit to be a family house again but he is still seething with anger against Maryanne for leaving him and there is a dark psychological tension that settles over the family. Maryanne lives on tenterhooks, never knowing what mood Roy will be in when he comes home. His jealousy and resentment makes it hard for her to make friends and keep in touch with her mother. Teenage Freya feels the stress and tension keenly and tries to numb her pain with risk-taking behaviour, all the time worried for her mother and younger brother. She can feel that a crisis is building and is fearful of when it will erupt and how it will affect them all.

    This is a dark story of a fractured family struggling to be whole again. The psychological tension is palpable, building slowly into a dark storm that you know must eventually break, damaging all in it's path. The characters are well drawn - angry, moody Roy driven by jealousy with violence seething just below the surface; Maryanne trying to placate him and protect her children, particularly young Daniel who is always getting in trouble and Freya, our narrator trying to navigate adolescence in a new environment, fearful of her father and worried about her mother and brother. The author has placed these events firmly into the Australian vernacular with his detailed descriptions of Newcastle and the events that occurred in that year (1989).

  • Pam Tickner

    3 1/2 stars - A slowly unfolding story of domestic disquiet set in coastal NSW. Told from the 15 year old daughter's perspective, the story is a snapshot of one year, when a fractured family moves from Sydney to a "renovator's dream" (burnt out squat) terrace home in Newcastle. Disturbing and moving at the same time.

  • Maureen

    This book is chilling on every page, not chilling because of the daily events portrayed but chilling because it is crystal clear from the first chapter that this will not end well. It was so real to me geographically because I could follow every street, hill and path along Newcastle's foreshore where this book is set. But more importantly, real because of the recognition of a woman's belief that an impossible relationship 'will work out', despite all obvious indications to the contrary. The pric

    This book is chilling on every page, not chilling because of the daily events portrayed but chilling because it is crystal clear from the first chapter that this will not end well. It was so real to me geographically because I could follow every street, hill and path along Newcastle's foreshore where this book is set. But more importantly, real because of the recognition of a woman's belief that an impossible relationship 'will work out', despite all obvious indications to the contrary. The price paid in this case for that belief is catastrophic. Full marks to Michael Sala for his understanding of the character Maryanne's open prison.

  • PattyMacDotComma

    3.5★

    Roy kisses Maryanne as he goes to work. They’ve been together since they were very young and have two kids, Freya, 14, and Daniel, 8. They’ve just move

    3.5★

    Roy kisses Maryanne as he goes to work. They’ve been together since they were very young and have two kids, Freya, 14, and Daniel, 8. They’ve just moved to Newcastle, NSW, a coastal city north of Sydney, Australia, because Roy has bought a derelict old house to renovate and sell.

    Sounds pretty normal, right? Except we meet them as Maryanne and the children are leaving her mother’s house where they have been living while the parents were separated.

    We don’t know exactly why, but it’s obvious from the beginning that Roy is a muscular, physical sort of handyman/builder with a short fuse. He’s anxious to make up for lost time as a family, but Freya remains untrusting and gratefully accepts her grandmother’s phone number when Nan tells her to keep it and hide it, just in case.

    They meet the gay next-door neighbour who helps Roy move a table but whom Roy immediately sends home, keeping his family tight and close. There had been a fire in the house, it was left stinking and filthy. Roy said it was great - the worst house in the best street – except it wasn’t a good street and there was a brothel just down the road.

    Maryanne is a nurse, working nights at the nearby hospital, while Roy had a one-year contract, so they don’t share a lot of time together. Some of the story is from Maryanne’s point of view, but more of it is told from Freya’s – how she meets kids at school, how she struggles with camping out on the dining room floor with her little brother, who’s a quiet little boy.

    The beach and the shore are where both Freya and Maryanne find some respite. Freya meets an alternative sort of kid, Josh, who has a few face piercings, smokes dope, shoplifts, and loves music. He tells Freya he can do pretty much what he wants because his mother left a few years ago and his dad hasn’t really recovered and leaves Josh to his own devices.

    Freya’s discontent is certainly understandable, but she is also typical of most teens I’ve known. No matter where you are in your teens, you just KNOW it would be better to be someplace else, without parents, of course.

    There are awkward parts of the book where bits of local history and colour are dropped in – caves, shipwrecks, attractions – and the Newcastle earthquake of 1989 is a plot point. There is a lot of 80s music featured, on cassettes, of course, to emphasise the period. And there are scenes at school sandwiched in here and there. I did enjoy one, though, where a teacher who knew she was fighting a losing battle persisted anyway.

    Shouting into the wind, she was. The family dynamic shifts to and fro with underlying discontent, distrust, and a sense of impending danger.

    Roy loses his job, but keeps working on the house. Maryanne is kept busy at the hospital and is always on eggshells around Roy. Freya wags school and starts using pot, while little Daniel tries to learn the clarinet.

    Roy is aggressively jealous of the time Maryanne spends with the gay guy next door and with her workmates. Not a happy family. And we do eventually learn why Maryanne is so cautious around Roy, but it seems to be a very long time coming.

    It's obvious Sala's got talent, and some passages are poetically descriptive, so I'll be keeping an eye out for what he does next.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the copy for review from which I’ve quoted (so quotes may have changed).

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