Kirsten Tranter’s début novel is a slow-moving, elegiac exploration of a number of big topics: love, friendship, truth and deception. Beautiful, talented and enigmatic, Ingrid has an appointment at the Twin Towers, New York. The date is 11 September 2001. She never returns home and is presumed dead.
A year later, her friend Julia is persuaded by Ralph, Ingrid’s half-cousin, to retrace Ingrid’s footsteps. A triangle of unrequited love once existed between the three, before Ingrid flew out of orbit and married an older American art dealer.
While several mysteries pulse at the heart of this novel, readers expecting breathless excitement will be frustrated. The Legacy moves at an almost unbearably languid pace, with Tranter taking tangential detours along the way. She dallies, prevaricates and makes minute observations on the scenery or on a character’s wardrobe. The story rests on a padded cushion of money, of ‘lamplight, soft carpet and good wine’ – both in the aristocratic wealth of Sydney’s north shore and the rarefied art world of New York.
This is also very much a self-consciously literary book. Not only is Ingrid a classics scholar, but the other characters are equally comfortable speaking French, quoting Macbeth and having casual debates on whether T.S. Eliot was better than George Eliot.
Despite the love conundrums and Ingrid’s ‘vivid potentiality’, there remains a coldness to The Legacy. Tranter’s method of deferment means the denouement is a long way coming. Still, there’s a studied elegance about the prose and satisfaction in the eventual resolution.