Taylah Brown is happy. She is. She has graduated university and she is in love and Sydney is a wonderful city to be in love in – all sunshine and blue water everywhere. It’s 2014 and the future is paved out in front her, a heat shimmer of possibility. Haircuts. Concerts. Holidays. Birthdays. Getting engaged, being engaged, going to brunch to show off the ring. More birthdays, a promotion, finding the right white dress. Getting married, going on her honeymoon, buying a house, having a child, getting a dog, going to the gym, moving house, camping at beach, weekends spent baking in the kitchen. New haircuts, new jobs, more birthdays, more birthdays… Choice-laden, picturesque, this is the good life. Isn’t it?
Into the Sea is a novel about ‘the Australian way of life’, grounded in ethnographic research, and crafted to engage readers in sociological imagination. A glocal frame sees contemporary cultural tensions play out through the panoramic dimensions of relationships and life events. Designed with layers and levels of reading, this novel will appeal to contemporary fiction readers and makes a lively addition to undergraduate and graduate curriculum across sociology, cultural studies, gender studies, arts-based research, and contemporary literature.
Ash Watson, Ph.D. (2018), is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. A sociologist and writer, her research explores storytelling, social imaginaries and digital technologies.
“You have to be an extraordinary writer in order bring to life what is remarkable in the ordinary. In this beautifully crafted work of sociological fiction Ash Watson does just this, linking the most intimate of local details in Australian everyday life to the big issues of global history and society.” – Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London
“A beautifully written pause-and-think novel that invites you to ponder on lives lived in and through the complexities of the present. Watson limns her characters in vivid technicolour showing how the push and pull of historical circumstances play through lives lived in seemingly ordinary registers. Will change how you think about the local and global forces that shape you.” – Nick Prior, University of Edinburgh
“An apparently simple but actually profound odyssey, not just into the heart of modern Australia, but also into the living core of what we like to call modernity.” – David Inglis, University of Helsinki
“With a whip-smart irony that is equal parts chilling and hilarious, Ash Watson has written a deeply affecting and keenly observed sociological novel set in the bubble of middling white Australia, post 9/11. We follow Taylah, a young school teacher who is unsure if she wants the glossy ‘next episodes’ of marriage and children but is firmly pursuing this social script nonetheless, even across the waking nightmare of the IKEA showroom. But this is a coming-of-age story that – refreshingly – never delivers us an easy ending of individual epiphany. Instead, Watson reveals the slithers of space in Taylah’s everyday life and relationships where visages of consumerist distraction, social/media spectacle, lazy nationalism, and the simmering fear of terror, give way to ennui and insights that quickly slip away again. Slicing through the moments where personal troubles and social problems collide, Into the Sea urges us to reflect on the ways that neoliberalism mediates our intimate lives and deflects our attention away from the things that really matter to us.” – Ashley Barnwell, University of Melbourne
“This novel brings to life everyday aspects of an 'ordinary' slice of Australian life. The sights, smells, sounds, taste and feel of the worlds experienced by the characters are artfully evoked. The patois of Australian speech, the mundane activities and rituals that structure the characters' lives, the weather, the food they eat and the homes, streets and landscapes through which they move are all detailed in language that makes you feel that you are there. Readers will be drawn into the narrative, and along the way, catch vivid glimpses into Australian culture.” – Deborah Lupton, University of New South Wales, Sydney
“This engrossing work is a powerful reflection on the lives we lead and their relationship to collective memory. It unites sociological observation and narrative form with a distinctive and exciting voice.” – Mark Carrigan, University of Cambridge
“Watson offers up a fine example of the sociological imagination creatively rendered; connecting for the reader the personal troubles of Taylah, Caleb, Brett and co. to the public issues of our time. Into the Sea is a reminder that our individual experiences are part of something much bigger, that we are not simply spectators of the events – small and momentous – that punctuate everyday life. Watson's highly evocative writing quickly draws the reader into the mango memories, sunburnt childhoods and hot chook lunches of the book's characters. But underneath is always a darker undercurrent, as the characters struggle with and against the good, bad, change of neoliberal agendas and the social conditions of late modernity. A must read!” – Sarah Baker, Griffith University
All interested in contemporary fiction, and particularly the promises and fictions of our dominant cultural narratives like ‘the Australian way of life.’ Also anyone who teaches, studies or conducts research in sociology.