By Craig SherborneFiction Text
The Amateur Science of Love
Craig Sherborne’s first novel comes on the heels of two brilliant, eccentric memoirs of childhood and adolescence, Hoi Polloi and Muck. In The Amateur Science of Love, a novel that centres on a claustrophobic, searingly intense relationship, he continues his ongoing forensic examination of what it is to be human, right here and now.
Sherborne shows his characters no mercy, putting them under the microscope as they struggle with the all-too-ordinary flaws and frailties that emerge as their relationship inevitably drifts from the early days of mad passion to everyday rhythms and realities – and becomes dangerously moored in the netherworld of serious illness. Narrator Colin is an enticing blend of knowing and naive, painfully sensitive and shockingly blunt, deeply affectionate and callously indifferent.
The Amateur Science of Love showcases a unique and arresting literary talent in his first transition from fact to fiction. It’s a remarkably nuanced, honest and engrossing portrait of a contemporary relationship that bears the unmistakable sting of authenticity.
In the narrator of The Amateur Science of Love, Craig Sherbourne has created a character at once loathsome and uncomfortably recognisable. Would-be actor Colin describes his relationship with artist Tilda from their first encounter in London to their life in a tiny Australian town. This is love as tug-of-war and Colin’s manipulative self-interest is repugnant, yet we cannot look away as he details the lusty highs, ugly lows, disillusions and dishonesties of his attempts at love. With faultless pacing and pitch-perfect comic sensibility, this is a compelling and funny novel, unafraid to shine a harsh light on the darker undercurrents of human relationships.
When asked “What are you thinking?” a man will often reply, “Nothing”. In The Amateur Science of Love, the immature Colin answers us. The confession box is opened, the unspoken is spoken, and the truth is out: we have the privilege of stepping inside the soul of Colin as he embarks upon his first serious relationship with an older woman, the whimsical, alluring artist, Tilda. This is a real relationship, flawed from the start and perpetually imbalanced. The dynamics of the unfolding passion mean that less is not more. Less is less and more is not sustainable.
The work is set in various locations and culminates in a small Victorian country town. Sudden and spectacular upheavals evoke raw emotions from characters and reader alike. The fast-paced narrative packs a lot of punch as an honest account of dishonesty. Characters are believable and deep - some delightfully Australian in a rural context - whilst others are conspicuous by their absence. Psychological issues of life, death, deceit, ambivalence, manipulation and obsession - among many more - emerge in a reflective, cathartic and darkly humorous way. Love, scientifically speaking, is full of insights and surprises, and may leave you with more questions than answers.
The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist