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No More Boats by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo Publishing)
‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.’ In 2001, John Howard’s defiant response to the plight of asylum seekers aboard the Tampa set the tone of immigration policy for years to come. In Felicity Castagna’s striking novel No More Boats, these words also capture the imagination of Antonio Martone — postwar Italian migrant, indifferent husband, disconnected father and builder forced into early retirement by a workplace accident that claimed his best friend.
Castagna deftly uses Martone’s fictional response to real events to explore the meaning of assimilation, our enduring fear of invasion and whether there is any such thing as an ‘ex-migrant’. A vividly drawn supporting cast of characters, such as Martone’s daughter, Clare, and her Vietnamese Australian colleague, Paul, add layers of nuance to the plot, as does the evocative portrayal of Parramatta — an area with a long history of migrant settlement, and Sydney’s demographic heart. No More Boats may be set 17 years ago, but the echoes of that 2001 speech and Castagna’s novel are still resonant today.