Reality TV, trauma and green activism: The Sound of Breaking Glass reviewed

by Catherine Robertson / 29 December, 2018
Kirsten Warner. Photo/Supplied

Kirsten Warner. Photo/Supplied

RelatedArticlesModule - Kirsten Warner Sound Breaking Glass

Kirsten Warner's ambitious debut melds a Holocaust mystery, reality TV and green activism to absorbing effect.

Christel is under siege. In her present, she finds it difficult to juggle her highly insecure job in reality television with the demands of her role as partner and mother, not to mention her involvement in activist group Women Against Surplus Plastic.

She is struggling to come to terms with her past, in particular, a traumatic incident in her teens, and the mystery of her late father, Conrad, Holocaust survivor and possible adulterer.

On top of that, Christel does daily battle with her subconscious, which insists on bringing to life both her inner critic, in various guises, and her suppressed anger, in the form of a man made from plastic milk bottles. And alongside the characters she manifests, there is another who is very real, and who potentially means her harm.

The Sound of Breaking Glass is Kirsten Warner’s debut novel, and it’s safe to say, there is a lot going on. We are thrown head first into Christel’s head and forced to become rapidly familiar with the workings of her mind. A tough call when Christel herself isn’t sure what is and isn’t real. The Milk Bottle Man, for example, starts as a sculpture to draw attention to plastic waste but soon becomes animate, possibly sentient, and Christel can’t tell whether it is entirely under her control or nothing to do with her at all.

Such a crammed, frenetic narrative could be confusing and exhausting, but though the novel makes demands on the reader, and at times asks us to entirely suspend disbelief, Warner’s vivid, intelligent writing makes it work.

The book is busy, but it is also absorbing, humorous, suspenseful and inventive. Christel keeps the reader on her side – just – and as intrigued by the mysteries of her past as she is. Her father is exceptionally well drawn and Warner does a great job of showing how he, too, is caught by his past and held back from fully investing in his present relationships, with his friends, wife and daughter.

This is a novel about intergenerational trauma, women’s power and finding one’s voice. It’s about love and the importance of sharing stories. An ambitious novel in both content and style, it’s well worth the extra effort because Warner manages to bring her many plot threads together in an ending that’s both moving and satisfying.

THE SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS, by  Kirsten Warner (Mākaro Press, $35)

This article was first published in the December 8, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


101413 2019-01-20 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Searching Great Barrier Island for the meaning of…

by Joanna Wane

Joanna Wane goes to Great Barrier Island in search of the answer to life, the universe and everything.

Read more
Australian classic Storm Boy gets a modern remake
101340 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Movies

Australian classic Storm Boy gets a modern remake

by James Robins

The biggest beak in Oz screen history returns in a remake of a 1970s favourite.

Read more
Go South: The NZ travel show with no narration or score
101364 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Television

Go South: The NZ travel show with no narration or…

by Russell Brown

New Zealand jumps on the captivating, if time-consuming, bandwagon of televising cross-country journeys.

Read more
The downsides of tiny houses
101357 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Property

The downsides of tiny houses

by Megan Carras

Tiny houses look marvellous but have a dark side. Here are three things they don’t tell you on marketing blurb.

Read more
Scientists reveal the secrets to a restorative sleep
100946 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Scientists reveal the secrets to a restorative sle…

by Mark Broatch

A third of New Zealanders don’t get enough sleep and it’s killing us. Mark Broatch asks sleep scientists what we can do to get a good night’s slumber.

Read more
10 tips for getting a better night's sleep
100957 2019-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

10 tips for getting a better night's sleep

by The Listener

Don’t use the snooze button on your alarm clock. Alarms spike blood pressure and heart rate, and snooze buttons just repeat the shock.

Read more
Gone in 60 seconds: The hard lessons from the Cryptopia heist
101395 2019-01-18 14:38:51Z Tech

Gone in 60 seconds: The hard lessons from the Cryp…

by Peter Griffin

Time is of the essence in a bank heist, and in the digital world, cryptocurrency tokens can be transferred in a flash and converted to US dollars.

Read more
Escape the hustle and bustle of Queen St at new Auckland central eatery NEO
101383 2019-01-18 09:28:19Z Auckland Eats

Escape the hustle and bustle of Queen St at new Au…

by Alex Blackwood

NEO is a new all-day eatery overlooking Queen St.

Read more