Reading is the passport to another world – it allows you to see a situation from the other side whilst safely ensconcing you in the comfort of your chair. And that is exactly where you should be when you are reading Lili Wilkinson’s latest novel The Boundless Sublime. For once you are involved with Ruby and Fox, you will never want to leave your chair again.
Ruby is grieving – her family has been torn apart in the most devastating of situations – but then she meets Fox and gets caught up in a group that appears to be caring and peaceful and yet is anything but. As Wilkinson challenges her protagonist, the reader becomes as emotionally involved as Ruby and at times struggles to make sense of anything. However, that is where the power in this novel comes from; Wilkinson’s ability to let you feel her protagonist’s grief – not just to empathise with it, but to truly feel it as though it were your own.
When Ruby starts the novel, as grief stricken as she is, she still has a sense of independence and she is anything but senseless and naïve. Ruby was relatable because even though she was suffering and falling into the black pit with very few strategies at her disposal to support her journey of grief, she wasn’t your archetypal ‘damsel in distress’. Even as her desire for Fox grows, Wilkinson doesn’t at any point expect her readers to believe that there isn’t inner strength in her character. Ruby desires Fox, but she doesn’t become dependent upon him. At no point does Ruby become a drooling, tragic ‘girl’ who is unable to exist without the support and protection of the ‘boy’.
This is what will appeal to Wilkinson’s readers, and the young girls who are struggling to find themselves, to deal with their own grief and to become Someone. There is a greater lesson in The Boundless Sublime than to be careful of who you get caught up with. It is a lesson in finding your inner strength and independence, of being true to yourself and of finding your own voice.
As bibliotherapy, this text will be useful for older teens aged over fifteen. Male readers may find it difficult to relate to Wilkinson’s characters, however female readers will be able to find much comfort in the smart but grieving Ruby.
Reviewed by Prue Bon, Bairnsdale Secondary College