Jamie Marina Lau - presents a surreal, electronic parable that sweeps us through the confusing hell that is Monk’s life growing up in the digital age. With its experimental form and innovative language, this novel is a superb example of the future of literary fiction

Image result for Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Locust Island,
Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Locust Island, Brow Books, 2018.

An unpredictable and innovative debut novel from a provocative new voice in Australian fiction. Embracing the noir tradition and featuring a prose style quite unlike any before, with references that will go both over your head and under your feet, Pink Mountain on Locust Island will flip readers upside down and turn your understanding of the world around around.
Modernity, art, family, gender, drugs, music, adolescence, business, religion, internet cafes, food, strangers, aesthetics, vacations, fashion, desires, dreams, expectations, brown couches.

•The debut novel of 20-year-old polymath Jamie Marina Lau
•Set in Chinatown as well as across inner suburbia
•A hyperreal depiction of our modern transcultural world

Monk lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. When Santa Coy—possible boyfriend, potential accomplice—enters their lives, an intoxicating hunger consumes their home. So begins a heady descent into art, casino resorts, drugs, vacant swimming pools, religion, pixelated tutorial videos, and senseless violence.
In bursts of fizzing, staccato and claustrophobic prose, this modern Australian take on the classic hard-boiled novel bounces you between pulverised English, elastic Cantonese and the new dialect of a digitised world.

Pink Mountain on Locust Island is bright, funny, and tender. Jamie Marina Lau’s surreal and self-possessed prose reads like a teenage daydream.” - Briohny Doyle

Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau was a surprise delight. It’s a first novel and it’s like nothing else I’ve read.” - Louise Swinn

“There is iridescence in this splatter artwork of a novel but, like its cover of light pink splotches against a matt black background, there’s also unknowingness and darkness.” - Thuy On

Set in a Chinatown in an unnamed city, Jamie Marina Lau’s first book is a neon sucker-punch of a coming-of-age story. A short, literary novel in the vein of Jenny Offill and Diane Williams, its episodic chapters—some as brief as one sentence, some a few pages long—tell the story of 15-year-old Monk, who lives with her father in a small Chinatown apartment. When Monk brings home 19-year-old artist Santa Coy after meeting him in an internet café, her father pins his failed artistic dreams on the interloper. But as her father takes Santa Coy under his wing, Monk feels increasingly neglected, and begins to act accordingly. Monk’s naiveté, combined with her father’s neglect, leads her to trouble, and it all comes to a head in a gripping finale. Lau’s surreal prose captures the confusion of adolescence in the 21st century. Vivid, inventive descriptions of yum cha, high-school friendships and claustrophobic apartment living evoke the experience of growing up in a diasporic community and the sensory overload of being surrounded by people, yet still alone. A stylish yet moving glimpse into the loneliness of being a teenage girl, Pink Mountain on Locust Island heralds the arrival of an electric new Australian writer. - Kelsey Oldham

Monk and her father have their daily routine down-pat. She spends her time going to school and exploring Chinatown, while he lays on the couch, despairing over how hopeless his life has become. It’s safe, predictable and even a little boring, but it’s how things work, and Monk takes comfort in that. Until Santa Coy enters their lives.
Santa Coy has this exotic aura surrounding him and suddenly everything is new and exciting. All at once they are swept up in his intoxicating personality and drawn into a tantalising world of the new age, violence and drugs. It’s enthralling, but its also very different from everything Monk has known. As much as she has come to love Santa Coy, she begins to wonder if this new exciting life she had always dreamed of is everything worth what she is on the brink of losing.
Pink Mountain on Locust Island is the debut novel from Jamie Marina Lau, a 20-year-old musician and writer from Melbourne. Both critics and readers alike have praised Lau’s fresh new voice and hint that there are great things in this new writer’s future, with Books + Publishing contributor Kelsey Oldham calling her “an electric new writer”.
And it’s hard to disagree with them. Lau has a unique style of writing that verges on poetic. While it may sound cliché, Lau has a handle on the written word, and knows how to use it with brevity in a way that even the most accomplished authors still struggle to grasp.
Each page presents something new, with the novel set up in short, sharp chapters with insightful reflections. It’s compelling and truly something I have never come across before outside the poetic genre. The melding of this style into a more long-form piece is intriguing and something that I hope Lau continues with in future releases.
The characters and plot-line of Pink Mountain on Locust Island are just as engaging as the style within which their tale is written. Monk is the protagonist that readers of the “hard-boiled noir” genre come to love, her naivety and quirks  make this more modern and vibrant than those we have expect from classic authors like Raymond Chandler or even contemporaries like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton.
Pink Mountain on Locust Island is real and magnetic, simple yet so full of life. If this is just the beginning, Australian literature has gained something special. - Jackie Smith

Sometimes a book comes along that doesn’t just make me very happy, but also makes me excited for the future. Jamie Marina Lau’s debut novel, Pink Mountain on Locust Island, is one such book. Told in snippets, this is the story of Monk, a young girl living in an unnamed city with her artist father. Monk’s dad is not a shining example of a parent; his moods are explosive, his dealings dodgy. When he and a young man, Santa Coy, become involved in some less-than-savoury art business, Monk is drawn into the situation.
Where this book shines most clearly is on a line level. I read the whole thing very quickly – its choppy structure means that it’s hard not to – and occasionally I had to consciously slow myself down in order to enjoy the wonderfully abject prose. Lau’s writing is something else. She doesn’t sound like anyone I’ve read before. The way she creates characters is fascinating, and even the most fleeting, one-line characters felt three dimensional to me. In Monk, Lau has created a character who feels very real, but also very idiosyncratic. While reading this book, I really felt like I really was seeing the inside of her brain. Anyone interested in writing that is formally experimental should put this book at the top of their reading pile.
I’m very glad that Australia has gained a publisher like Brow Books, who put this novel out. In the short time they have existed, they’ve shown that they’re willing to take risks on books such as Pink Mountain on Locust Island – unconventional, but of an exceptionally high quality. Jamie Marina Lau is an author we should all be keeping tabs on, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. - Ellen Cregan

Pink Mountain on Locust Island reads like a fever dream or a drug-induced hallucination. Jamie Marina Lau presents a surreal, electronic parable that sweeps us through the confusing hell that is Monk’s life growing up in the digital age. Fifteen and living with a failed artist father in a Chinatown apartment, Monk becomes entranced with manicpixie-dream-boy Santa Coy. As his electrifying presence infects their lives, the novel accelerates into a trippy journey through a mishmash of art, angst, drugs, hunger and desire.” - Annie Zhang

Monk and her father live in a tiny Chinatown apartment. Her mother is long gone, her sister is unhappily married, and her father spends his days on the couch, bitter about his failed artistic career. When Monk meets worldly rich kid Santa Coy, she sees a chance to venture into a more sophisticated world. But when she introduces him to her father, the two men begin a venture of their own; one which excludes Monk. Left out, seething with teenage angst, and struggling with her sense of self, Monk begins to rebel. She delves deeper into the murky undercurrents of her father and Santa Coy’s dealings, with life-changing consequences.
This is an incredibly sophisticated debut book from author Jamie Marina Lau. Part noir novel, part coming-of-age tale, the story is told in a series of staccato snapshots. Sentence fragments and fluid language are used to great effect, capturing the authentic voice of the story, its teenage protagonists, and the digital age. Lau’s prose follows as many conventions as it breaks, and she pays sharp attention to detail. Her descriptions are very sensory and often unusual, and the details she highlights are unexpected, but they work in the context of her characters and setting. The short, sharp chapters—some as short as a single sentence—draw the reader in, making Lau’s rich and nuanced plot appear deceptively simple.
The angst and uncertainty of the journey towards adulthood is captured perfectly in Monk’s increasingly complex character. Her family is a theatre of dysfunction, and her search for a sense of identity includes the travails of fragile teen friendships, and nonconformist behaviour. Monk’s naïveté and desire for attention sometimes make her difficult to like; but this is a testament to Lau’s deft ability to craft and humanise her characters. The book is also a cultural nod, with the setting and vivid descriptions of food and decor in an anonymous Chinatown. It also explores the challenges of diasporic life, and of existing simultaneously across multiple cultural settings and as different selves.
This is a novel written for a generation of digital natives by one of their own, reflective of both their lived experience and their style of content engagement; yet it also nods to the literary on a deeper level. With its experimental form and innovative language, Pink Mountain On Locust Island is a superb example of the future of literary fiction. - Amanda McLeod

I delayed posting this review for several days because I wanted to moderate my first reaction and because I felt a bit guilty by how negative the review had been at first. The delay allowed me to add some details in order to make the review, which I hope the author reads, as constructive as possible. One of the aspirations for any reviewer is that their comments will be taken to heart by the author in question, so that what they write next can be improved. This applies especially with reviews that are, in the main, negative.
I found this book deliberately hard but there was no real payoff for a careful reader. When it comes to talking about insights or poetry there is plenty of ancillary material that accompanies what development there is of character, as well as the rather embryonic traces of plotting, but I’m not sure that it is as strong as the author or her editors think it is.
The narrator is a teenage girl who lives with her father and she makes a friend named Santa Coy who is a guy (you guess) and they message each other on their computers. But the main character never fully emerges and so you are constantly trying to work out how you should feel about what happens in the text.
No framework is provided that would allow you to feel comfortable, worried, or otherwise (happy, fearful, unquiet, as the case may be) and so you skate along on the surface of the text without having a clue how things are looking like they’re going to turn out. It is very difficult in this kind of work to build suspense as there are no indicators at any given point telling you which way the story is heading. Is it developing in a way that will be conducive to the wellbeing of the main character? Is it going in a way that will turn out to be bad for her? What about her new friend, how is he developing? Is he sympathetic or is there a hidden danger that the narrator is hiding from the main character? Is her father a worry? How is he shaping up in the wider scheme of things?
You are even unsure in this novel about such things as major plot points. It might be that the main character gets a second-hand computer from Santa Coy but facts aren’t nailed down in the impressionistic sequence of scenes that are given to the reader and that are punctuated by the occasional segment of dialogue. The mise-en-scene is equally vague – you are in a nondescript city and the narrator and her father live in an apartment – and there is little in the story that can be used to orient you along socioeconomic lines or even culturally. The only thing that is heavy is the teen attitude but this is provided without the narrator being particularly strong on anything approximating wisdom that might help the reader to understand what it is in aid of.
The book was longlisted for the Stella Prize, which is an award given every year for female Australian authors, but it won’t win. The author did well just to get a mention. The book has furthermore been remarked on by various literary outlets. The problem that a book like this provides a reviewer is that it comes absolutely dripping in artistic ambition and the good intentions of its publisher, but I cannot in good faith recommend it to readers of this blog. - Matthew da Silva

In the nineties, I had a flat mate who worked for an arts festival. She was an excellent flat mate to have because we were both on tight just-moved-out-of-home budgets and one of the perks of her job was tickets to all kinds of concerts and performances – and I was often her ‘plus one’. However, I soon realised that she was wasting a ticket by taking me to any kind of interpretive dance. I appreciated the skill and athleticism of these performances but I simply didn’t enjoy it.
I’m afraid Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau was the reading equivalent of interpretative dance for me.
The story is told through short, punchy vignettes that constitute chapters (some are just a sentence or a paragraph long). A story emerges – teenage girl, Monk, lives in Chinatown with her washed-up painter father. She meets Santa Coy, who may be her boyfriend. Santa Coy inserts himself into Monk and her father’s lives, impressing them with his own brand of artwork. As Monk tries to find her place in the world, her relationships take various turns.
I understand why readers are excited by Lau – her writing is expressive and commanding, with bizarre descriptions that have you re-reading and imagining –
He rises and bubbles like dough in Grandma’s microwave oven.
Zig opens the door and inside is an oversized T-shirt mania.
Cardigan metropolis and a hushed-voice millennia.
And while ‘imagining’ is nice, Lau’s writing is also relentless. There’s a lot of language that’s tricked up. In fact so much of it, that it begins to wash over you and, when you do pause to consider the meaning of what she has written, it’s hard to ignore the nonsensical –
Before bed we watch a television show about the hazards of motorbike riding. It’s a PG-rated nine-o’clock couch show.
Everybody here is a new clam shell and fresh juicy shrimps on the island bench from Costco.
He’s a packed lunch with a suitcase and Raf cufflinks and Dad is a grumpy brown couch again.
And the use of similes quickly feels overdone –
We are in a big white space like an angel’s hot tub.
His apartment is like petrol station and coconut butter.
A big bald man with huge lungs like bombs…
…her lips like a fancy woman’s pregnancy.
Did I mention relentless? Descriptions of people’s voices are over-the-top (I longed for a simple ‘She said…’) –
…she has a voice like plump cushions.
This voice I’m doing is an ancient valley.
…my voice a big puff instead.
Her voice is a soft egg whisk.
What do these things actually mean? What is a ‘nine-o’clock couch show’? When are lungs like bombs? Does her voice sound like softly whisking eggs or is it the actual whisk? From this chaos, a plot emerges, as does a distinct style but unfortunately not a style that appealed to me.
A ‘challenging’ book can be enjoyable or a trial. In this case, I didn’t enjoy this challenging book.
2/5 Score based on my enjoyment of a book (as opposed to the skill of the author).
When we get to the resort it’s a wasteland surrounding a shiny oasis. A strange watering hole. There are Hawaiian-shirted parvenus and pina colada kings. - Kate W

Interview #67 — Jamie Marina Lau
'Questions and answers from a prolonged correspondence; an interview with Jamie Marina

Jamie Marina Lau (劉劍冰) is a 22-year-old writer and musician from Melbourne. Her debut novel Pink Mountain on Locust Island won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Readings Residency Award, was shortlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize, the 2019 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, and was longlisted for the ALS Gold Medal. Her writing can also be found in various publications. She is currently studying film and literature, producing music, and working on more fiction.

Tip over into a subterranean noir of the most electronic generation.