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the cutting : a great read

Richard McHugh

The Cutting is a wonderful, occasionally confusing and often sardonic novel set in Sydney, West Australia and Paris. Perhaps the title means ‘cutting’, as in sarcastic or cynical. Then we discover is refers to the cliff cutting near Bronte Beach, the home of the key character, and the home of the author. Nonetheless, it’s still a cutting story.

The time frames slip from 2016 to 1982, then 1987, back to 2016, then 1982 again back and forth some more, with the epilogue set  in 2017. We follow four key characters through the decades. First we are introduced to an engineer working fly-in-fly-out to West Australia for the Monster Mine. It’s tough living two places. His long-time girlfriend, an activist for incarcerated children in Nauru, has almost had enough of the half-time lover. She, coincidentally, begins an affair with the mega rich owner of the Monster Mine. From then on, the unbelievable coincidences multiply. The fourth character is the engineer’s gutsy mother who works for a finance-lending company, which coincidentally, is owned by…… it would be a spoiler to reveal more!

The novel is a love story, a mystery, a history and a political point-maker – so you know there are going to be coincidences when you start reading. How else can you make all the pieces of a complicated and intelligent novel fit together? Just enjoy the threads neatly weaving its way to the end. Don’t worry about the ridiculousness of the coincidences – you just wish you had written the invective yourself. Some of them are so funny, so cutting, you have to read them again.

There are sections where it seems the author felt so  strongly about an issue that he had to wedge it into the story. For example, one character describes her disgust at seeing someone shout abuse at a woman wearing a hijab. The little segment fits the character, but not particularly the storyline. It’s as if the author saw it happen and just had to rush to his computer to fit in someplace. But that’s nice. That’s him. Go for it. He put it in the story and moved on with the plot. And move on it does – The Cutting is thick with information, character development and action.

Richard McHugh is a Senior Counsel, a traveller, humourist and a father of four. He understands the people he is writing about. He knows the politics and Sydney’s social strata. He gets it.

A great read. Don’t miss it. Enjoy the coincidences. Laugh at the vagaries of all levels of society. The novel does.

Richard McHugh ‘The Cutting’

Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books, out September 2022

ISBN: 978 1 76089 993 6

$25.25 paperback.  $15 eBook

Review by Carol Dance


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