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Max Easton: a note on Paradise Estate

Sydney-based author Max Easton reflects on Paradise Estate, a book which occupies the same universe as his Miles Franklin longlisted debut, The Magpie Wing. Paradise Estate was released in October 2024.

The writing of Paradise Estate started on the week of The Magpie Wing’s launch in December 2021. A few people had asked if I was working on anything, and it was easier for me to claim that I knew what I was doing than to admit to how lost I felt. ‘I’m planning a book set entirely in 2022,’ I said. (That week, I’d gone for a long walk around the neighbourhood and passed a house in Hurlstone Park, signposted with For Lease signs belonging to three different real estate companies, flanked on each side by apartment blocks). ‘It’s set in a sharehouse with no privacy, on the edge of a suburb being swamped by development,’ I continued. ‘No it’s not a sharehouse novel…it just features six people cohabiting in their thirties because that’s the way it is now.’ And while at the time it all felt rushed, and hurried, and motivated by social anxiety: I look back at the final edits this morning, feeling like it all went to plan.

Of course I’ve embellished the hastiness of the book’s setup. I had been thinking a lot about years of historical significance. It was on my mind since the writing of the Barely Human podcast (isolating points over a fifty-year history during which countercultural action slipped into subcultural practice) and was sparked again by The Magpie Wing’s timeline, when it hit the 2010s and each year seemed to blur into the other.

Going into 2022, I thought it would be fun to explore the meaning of what felt like potentially another miscellaneous year…but then things kept happening. A war took the world’s attention and instigated the start of a recession; extreme weather events were laid one atop the other; the pandemic continued despite our wilful ignorance; the housing crisis finally became a discussion point; and governments changed hands with no signs of curbing any of the above. I tried to take notes and wrap a narrative around all these events, to find parallels by way of allegory, to satirise the process itself as I went, allowing the march of 2022 to dictate the progress of the book. It was much more of an experimental process than I imagined, and it took a lot of work to bring it into some kind of order. Finishing a book in 2023 that was all set in 2022 has done all kinds of weird things to my perception of time, and I wonder if that’s a personal effect, or something that will flow on to the reader.

I should mention that Paradise Estate picks up a timeline shortly after the end of The Magpie Wing via the character of Helen (that’s a sophisticated way of admitting this is more or less a sequel). This one is written so that you can read them in either order, and I think it’d be an interesting way of parsing time, going from the fine-angle lens of Paradise Estate’s 2022 to The Magpie Wing’s twenty-five year history. It seemed to me that sequels aren’t really a done thing in contemporary literary fiction, and while I’m not sure what the wisdom is there, it seemed like every reason to write one.

Thanks to whoever takes the time to read Paradise Estate, and to everyone who helped bring it through to completion.

— Max Easton, August 2023

Photo: Del Lumanta

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