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REVIEW: Jesse Blackadder's Sixty Seconds a gripping read

Jesse Blackadder's latest novel, Sixty Seconds, is available now. Weekend also has 50 copies of the book up for grabs in a giveaway.
Jesse Blackadder's latest novel, Sixty Seconds, is available now. Weekend also has 50 copies of the book up for grabs in a giveaway. Glenn Hampson

DIVING in to Jesse Blackadder's latest work will leave many readers short of breath and desperate to break the surface.

Before even casting their eyes on the first line of Sixty Seconds, readers know they're about to immerse themselves in the story of a family grappling with the drowning death of a two-year-old boy.

The difficulty with which readers will tread water through the opening chapters that portray the death of little Toby - a delightful boy bathed in sand, sticky mischief and love - is a testament to the power of Jesse's writing.

Through her tale of an imperfect family who have made a blissful seachange to Murwillumbah, Jesse has a way of engaging people despite their instinct to turn away and hope desperately to never find themselves in the same predicament.

With the drowning of her baby sister, Lucie, still aching despite the passage of four decades, the Mullumbimby author knew it was a story that would resonate.

"It wasn't in my mind to tell this story until a few years ago. I felt very strongly it was what I needed to write next," Jesse says.

"I also had a sinking in my heart because I knew it was going to be painful to revisit that story in any form even though it wasn't my family's account.

"In truth it's still painful for them. My dad has told me in a very kind way that he won't be reading it and that's where I've really seen for him that 40-something years later that wound will never heal."

The launch of the book coincides with the release of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report, which shows 73 people drowned in the past year including 13 children under the age of four - an increase of 9%.

Both Queensland and NSW have tightened their pool laws in recent years and, while Jesse says education wasn't the motivation behind the novel, it's certainly a welcome by-product.

"Every parent worries about their child but with water and pool safety it can just happen so quickly," she says.

"There's an extraordinary number of pool drownings in Australia every year and there is no parent alive who hasn't looked away from their child for 60 seconds."

Anyone who has ever experienced a moment of panic in the water, however brief, will remember the sensation of finally sucking in a welcome gulp of fresh air.

And so it is with Sixty Seconds, which doesn't leave its readers floating helplessly on the tides of despair for too long.

"When I read a book I need redemption," Jesse says.

"I need to come to the end and feel a sense of hope with the world.

"This will be a difficult read for some people but I just got a beautiful note back from another author. She said the book broke her heart and then put it back together again.

"I need to offer readers not just a journey into pain but a way through it as well."

Topics:  book drowning jesse blackadder novel



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