Book Review: Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany

The strange and dangerous psychological space Tiffany inhabits focuses on small details that make up the whole.
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Carrie Tiffany’s Exploded View.

Imagine a schematic or technical illustration showing how to assemble and disassemble the parts of a machine. Each piece is suspended on the page in mid-air, separated at a staggered distance from its neighbour. We use the exploded view to manage the relationships between individual parts to explain the entire procedure of the whole.

The rigid format manuals like the exploded view follow to be effective is specified a human element as a young girl interprets it to control her surroundings. The idea of thinking schematically for a child with repressed emotions finds her outlet – the Exploded View.

Exploded View, the new novel by Carrie Tiffany, investigates the psychological space of a child familiar with danger, on a road trip with her family in 70s Australia. It’s a measured, poetic focus on the small details in nature, roads and relationships. Tiffany’s protagonist sees car crashes. She traverses roadside stores, rest stops and wildlife. She’s naïve yet street-smart.

‘A car is the ideal container for a family. You can be always going to a better place and it keeps everyone stamped down neatly in their seats.’

Tiffany’s nameless hero shares in short breaks of prose observations and insights into how a girl should act and what to watch out for in others, especially men. She sabotages her father’s mechanic business with a Holden workshop manual from which she also draws advice for her relationships. Exploded View is clearly written and avoids complex descriptions but there is plenty to take away from what she observes.

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in the 70s in Western Australia. She was a park ranger in Central Australia in her 20s before becoming a full-time farming journalist in Melbourne. Tiffany prefers to not write too many books – but she hasn’t a flop to her name yet. Her previous books won Premier’s Literary Awards in New South Wales and Western Australia and she was longlisted for Australian and UK literary awards for her 2005 novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living. Her second novel, Mateship with Birds, won the Stella Prize in 2012.

She’s stuck to rural settings and dark humour over her career, and Exploded View, released on March 5 through Text Publishing, continues these themes. The strange and dangerous psychological space Tiffany’s main character inhabits leaves out more than it mentions but focuses on the smaller details of parts that make up the whole.

Rating: 4 stars ★★★★
Exploded View
By Carrie Tiffany

Extent: 192pp
Format: Hardback
Text publication date: 5 March 2019
ISBN: 9781925773415
AU Price: $29.99
Category: Australian Fiction

James Arbuthnott
About the Author
Contributed by an ArtsHub critic.