‘A strange and joyous marvel.’ Richard Flanagan
A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his twenty-three-year-old sister, Charlotte—who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman named Karl hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. And a father takes form from fire.
The answers to these riddles are to be found in this tale of grief and love and the bonds of family, tracing a journey across the southern island that takes us full circle.
Flames sings out with joy and sadness. Utterly original in conception, spellbinding in its descriptions of nature and its celebration of the power of language, it announces the arrival of a thrilling new voice in contemporary fiction.
Our mother returned to us two days after we spread her ashes over Notley Fern Gorge. She was definitely our mother—but, at the same time, she was not our mother at all. Since her dispersal among the fronds of Notley, she had changed. Now her skin was carpeted by spongy, verdant moss and thin tendrils of common filmy fern…
Robbie Arnott was born in Launceston in 1989. His writing has appeared in Island, the Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings and the 2017 anthology Seven Stories. He won the 2015 Tasmanian Young Writers’ Fellowship and the 2014 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers. Robbie lives in Hobart and is an advertising copywriter.
‘Ambitious storytelling from a stunning new Australian voice. Flames is constantly surprising—I never knew where the story would take me next. This book has a lovely sense of wonder for the world. It’s brimming with heart and compassion.’ Rohan Wilson
‘An Australian literary fabulist classic – well, it certainly deserves to be.’ Avid Reader
‘Visionary, vivid, full of audacious transformations: there’s a marvellous energy to this writing that returns the world to us aflame. A brilliant and wholly original debut.’ Gail Jones
‘Robbie Arnott is a vivid and bold new voice in Australian fiction.’ Danielle Wood
‘Arnott skilfully switches between different voices and genres in a trick reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The range he displays is impressive, swinging from fable to gothic horror to hardboiled detective story.’ Books+Publishing
‘Flames is an exuberantly creative and confident debut. This is a story that sparks with invention…Invigorating, strange and occasionally brutal.’ Australian Book Review
‘This is the kind of book that you’ll be able to read a second, third, even fourth time, and it will still never reveal all its secrets. Composed with meticulous attention to detail, and a mastery of form rarely found in a debut novel, Flames will keep you stewing long after you’ve finished reading it.’ Readings
‘Poignant and beautifully written…Richly detailed…A stunning homage to Tasmania…A deep and powerful reflection on what it is to be human and how we navigate the ravages of loss. I haven’t read a more unique debut Australian work in a very long time and was mesmerised by the story. It took hold of me from the first page and had me captivated until the end. Such is the uniqueness of Arnott’s voice and his effortless ability to combine an eclectic mix of genres into a potent narrative, this story sings and continues to resonate long after finishing. It was as if I had been drawn into the Tasmanian bush myself.’ Bathurst City Life
'A surprising story with a definite feminist edge…the novel’s playfulness and poetry make for a fresh and entertaining read.' Saturday Paper
‘It will be immediately apparent to anyone even vaguely familiar with Tasmania that Arnott is on intimate terms with his island, and his exquisite descriptive prose definitely does this gem of a place justice…More please, Mr Arnott.’ BookMooch
‘A gloriously audacious book. It runs astonishing risks and takes on the biggest emotions…It bowled me sideways.’ New Zealand Herald
‘The quirkiness of the characters—a staple of novels set in small-town Australia—allows for good-natured humour as well as biting satire, but it’s the mythic qualities of this novel that make it special. It’s as if Arnott has invented a whole mythology that is all our very own. If you like the fiction of Jane Rawson, I think you will like this one too.’ ANZ Lit Lovers
‘An extremely evocative and imaginative work…Undeniably powerful...it is refreshing to see the Australian landscape written about so vividly.’ Good Reading
‘Arnott confidently borrows from the genres of crime fiction, thriller, romance, comedy, eco-literature, and magical realism, throws them in the air, and lets the pieces land to form a flaming new world.’ Sydney Morning Herald
‘This is a startlingly good first novel, stylistically adventurous, gorgeous in its descriptions and with a compelling narrative that should find a wide readership.’ Australian
‘A very readable, well written tale set in Tasmania.’ Sharon Peterson, Readings St Kilda
‘[A] novel you will want to read more than once, not so much to plumb its depths as to savour its wild variety of styles and voices, to revel in its breathtaking descriptions of Tasmanian wilderness and to grasp its intricate structure…There is no doubt that a poetically wild and wicked imagination is at work here. More please!’ SA WEEKEND
‘It's not hard to see where the hype came from. This is an assured, funny and highly imaginative work. Flames is strange from the first, arresting sentence.’ Stuff NZ
‘Highly innovative…[A] finely built and realised first novel.’ Otago Daily Times
‘Unique and memorable…Extraordinary energy…A rich and memorable picture with prose of an exceptionally high quality. You won’t read another Australian literary novel like this anytime soon.’ Kill Your Darlings
‘Flames is brilliant…Enjoy it for its prose poetry, its vivid imagery, its brilliant turns of phrase on nearly every page.’ NZ Listener