What if Marilyn Monroe had faked her own death and was living as Zelda Zonk in a Harry Seidler apartment in Sydney?
In Late by Michael Fitzgerald (Transit Lounge, 1 Oct ,$32.99), an American actress, renowned for being late, is living with her two cats in a modernist clifftop apartment in Sydney in the late 1980s.
The recounting of her story is prompted by the arrival of an old typewriter and a book addressed to Zelda Zonk.
And by the arrival of a young man called Daniel, who is locked out while house-sitting her neighbour's apartment.
Together Zelda and Daniel form an unlikely but close bond as they go walking, prepare dinner for Shabbat, traverse Sydney Harbour on a ferry and talk about their lives.
Part of their bond is the discovery that they are both orphans. Daniel is also a habitue of the nearby sandstone cliffs where men have mysteriously gone missing.
In Late, Michael Fitzgerald superbly captures the literary spirit and sensibility of an ageing woman and icon who has escaped celebrity.
It is a haunting and lyrical novel about art, friendship, and confronting our fears.
Fitzgerald grew up in Melbourne and moved to Sydney in the early 1990s to work on Time Warner Inc.'s launch of the celebrity magazine Who.
He later became the South Pacific arts editor of Time, and for the past two decades has been an art magazine editor, most recently with Art Monthly Australasia.
He made his literary debut in 2017 with The Pacific Room, a fictional speculation on Robert Louis Stevenson's travels through Oceania, followed by Pieta (2021), inspired by the restoration of Michelangelo's sculpture.
Late is his third novel.
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