A big, bold and hauntingly beautiful story that captures a defining moment in Australia's history.
Everywhere he looked he saw what Utzon saw. The drama of harbour and horizon, and at night, the star-clotted sky. It held the shape of the possible, of a promise made and waiting to be kept …
In 1965 as Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s striking vision for the Sydney Opera House transforms the skyline and unleashes a storm of controversy, the shadow of the Vietnam War and a deadly lottery threaten to tear the country apart.
Journalist Pearl Keogh, exiled to the women’s pages after being photographed at an anti-war protest, is desperate to find her two missing brothers and save them from the draft. Axel Lindquist, a visionary young glass artist from Sweden, is obsessed with creating a unique work that will do justice to Utzon’s towering masterpiece.
In this big, bold and hauntingly beautiful portrait of art and life, Shell captures a world on the brink of seismic change through the eyes of two unforgettable characters caught in the eye of the storm.
And reminds us why taking a side matters.
Praise for Shell
‘Kristina Olsson is such a graceful, wise and perceptive writer. The woman’s massive heart is one big literary taproot feeding all of us answers about the Australian condition’ Trent Dalton, bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe
‘A luminous look at a city at a time of change, a time when the building of the Sydney Opera House was a reach for greatness.’ The New York Times
‘Olsson’s writing is beautiful, captivating, and is enough in itself to recommend this book … Her descriptions are vivid, evocative.’ New York Journal of Books
‘A classic in the making.’ Australian Financial Review
‘A shimmering love letter to Sydney, with the husk of the emerging Opera House its beating heart … Required reading.’ Australian Women’s Weekly
Olsson (In One Skin) uses the building of the Sydney Opera House as the backdrop for a contemplative story of personal guilt and political upheaval. When Australian announces a draft for Vietnam in 1965, Pearl Keogh, a journalist for the Telegraph, begins a frantic search for the younger brothers she abandoned after their mother's early death. Swedish artist Axel Lindquist arrives in Sydney to produce a glass sculpture for the new opera house. He struggles with the language, designing an appropriate sculpture, and lingering animosity from others toward Sweden's neutrality during World War II. Axel and Pearl drift into a relationship, though Olsson's jarring switch between their points of view and heavy reliance on internal thoughts obscures their bond. Pearl finally tracks down her brothers and learns they have already enlisted, causing her to tumble into guilt-ridden reminiscences. Meanwhile, Axel wanders through Sydney, using his reflections on art and quest to meet the reclusive Opera House architect to distract him from the his emotions surrounding his Swedish resistance fighter father's disappearance after the war. Olsson juxtaposes Pearl and Axel's complex feelings about their fractured families and tenuous connection with news of politician's increasing hostility toward the Opera House project. Readers who do not mind a leisurely paced story will enjoy exploring these historical political tensions and meditations on personal responsibility.