There are three things that I know about Kate Gordon:
1 – that she has a quirky elegance in her dress style
2 – that she has deep, loving, meaningful – and reciprocated relationships around her
3) that the woman can write.
And as we stand here to celebrate the launch of Kate’s latest book, Vulpi, this is obviously a widely recognised fact – and that all of the hard work and tenacious effort that Kate –and her muse Mephy ‘Danger’ Gordon –who may be a cat, have put into the writing has paid off.
I say ‘may be a cat’ – because having read Thyla, the predecessor to Vulpi – and of course Vulpi – I have entered a secret – and local underground world of shapeshifting and timewarping creatures – Thylas, Sarcos, Vulpis and the well and truly baddies – the Diemens .
'Far out' – the reader might think – a big jump from reality – a whole lot to suspend in terms of disbelief – but the trickery and wit of Kate, her writerly skill has eased me there through the familiar, accurate and harsh rendering of teenage girl existence.
In Thyla we are introduced to Tessa, who arrives at Cascade Falls, an exclusive private girls school located somewhere up the mountain. Tessa has lost her memory – and she has scars seared deep and wide across her back. In Thyla we are also introduced to Cat, who is told in the negative – she is ‘gone’ – Cat is the daughter of local copper, Rachel Connelly – and she had been a student at Cascade Falls until she disappeared on a bushwalk with the school.
Luckily for the reader, Cat is ‘found’ – and revealed to be a thyla herself – a shapeshifter from human to thylacine form – one who shared Tessa’s experience of the female factory many years before– as child inmates before they discovered their true shapeshifting colours.
I learnt a lot from reading these books – and one of those things is that they resided there after the female factory had its curious first incarnation as Lowe’s rum distillery.
It’s not a simple story told in black and white, subtleties and nuance are present, the characters are fleshed – or furred out –with a sharp yet delicate pen. Vulpi is a wonderful reminder for me- a reader of mainly adult and mainly the ‘literature’ end of the spectrum, that rich, entertaining and challenging work is found in the broad category ‘YA’ – young adult.
Kate takes this one step further – into genre YA – oh – and maybe even further genre Tasmanian YA and my goodness she does it well. Yes, we Tasmanians do have a particular penchant for reading about ourselves – our histories, (herstories) – our landscapes and our mythologies – and Vulpi takes us around the state. We travel on four legs, two legs and by boat (deftly borrowed from Kingston beach) by one of our eponymous Vulpis, Archie – who is wonderfully described as having a rather Nigella Lawson tone to his accent – he is the vulpine yet strangely friendly character with whom Cat works ‘very closely.’ And a wonderfully topical inclusion as a fox like creature in the Tasmanian wilderness. Wait until the fox taskforce get their hands on this book!
This book is a tribute to Kate’s hard work – and deeply enquiring mind. She takes YA one step further – and doesn’t shy from the complicated layers of human – and vulpi, thyla and sarco lives. She affords her characters growth and transformation – and in doing so gently reminds the reader of this in our own lives. This is layered and intelligent fiction and I feel privileged to be launching this. I wish Kate and Leigh – and of course the shapeshifting muse/cat Mephy all the very very best for the future. Kate – I want more of your words.