Thunderhead by Miranda Darling

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

By today’s standards, Thunderhead is unusually brief in length. This belies the fact that here is a book that must not be overlooked or dismissed. It encompasses writing that is poetic, lively and very clever in its portrayal of a woman trying desperately to master ‘how to be’ in her ordinary suburban world.

Winona, wife and mother of two boys, begins her day drinking in the beauty of the sunrise. Her day continues, performing her duties diligently yet anxiously. Her anxiety stems from her overwhelming feelings of being lost and unable to connect to her society….family, the boys’ school, and the other mothers. A dinner with another couple in the evening compounds her feelings of inability to cope and behave in her role with ease.

To help her to deal with the persistently real of the everyday, she has conceived the ‘transcendence project’, a way to quell her constant fear and trepidation.

Winona’s well-being is under constant threat by her coercively controlling husband. He manages the very minutiae of their lives, so that she lives in near terror most of her day.

He looms as an unnamed figure. Whereas he is a darkly threatening character, the anonymous little boys are regarded with warmth and love.

The husband arranges for various medical appointments including a psychologist. It is obvious that his treatment of her is aimed at her disintegration, mentally. Winona is his third wife which suggests there may be a sinister background to this.

Thunderhead, the title, is apt in that there is a pervading aura of impending violence in Winona’s life mirrored by the bank of black storm clouds approaching towards the end of the day.

The underlining suspense is lightened by funny, sometimes poignant glimpses of her life. She always wears her grandmother’s pearls which ‘are the closest thing to a super-hero’s suit.’  There is the hilarious episode with the notion of the plumber having to climb through the bathroom window (another cause of the husband’s anger)!

To comfort her loneliness, Winona carries in her pocket, a small paper cutout of a girl – ‘a mini, two-dimensional selfie’. Unlike Winona, she is socially accepted and happy. Her two dimensions allow her to be sweet-natured, cute, uncomplicated. It’s a simple, very touching insight into her state of mind.

Thunderhead is powerful, astute and unsettling in its perception of a woman trapped by a tyrannical man.  It is an excellent portrayal of vulnerability, courageously and honestly told.

Winona’s plight is so arresting that the absence of plot is no problem. Her voice is such that she captivates the reader with her humour, honesty and longing to ‘be’. She will resonate with many.

Thunderhead is Miranda Darling’s fifth book. She has studied at Oxford and the A.N.U.

Her interests are wide-ranging but her talent as a writer, outstanding. Her style is poetic in its creating memorable imagery; her sensitivity in presenting a woman striving to meet society’s norms result in a novel that uniquely beautiful.



by Miranda Darling


ISBN 978 176138 039 6

$29.99; 160pp



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