Dreamtime by Venetia Welby - review by Jemima Skala

Jemima Skala

From Arizona to Okinawa



Salt Publishing 256pp £12

Venetia Welby’s new novel, Dreamtime, is set in 2035, a time of rising sea levels and extreme weather events. It follows Sol as she completes a stint in rehab in Arizona, grappling with the trauma of her upbringing in a cult and searching for her absent father. Finally getting a lead on where he might be, she drags her childhood friend Kit across the world to find him, moving from Tokyo to the American military bases in Okinawa. The narration slips easily between Sol and Kit, with italicised interruptions from a nameless older Ryukyuan woman, who describes being handed from Japanese to American rule at the end of the Second World War. This historical strand is aligned with the ongoing climate catastrophe: Welby highlights how the way of life of the Ryukyuan people, based on fishing and farming, has been all but wiped out by the brutish presence of the occupying American military.

Although the writing is sometimes clunky (‘she is a language he has learned since infancy but he’ll always find the grammar fucking impenetrable’), Welby inflects the end of the world as we know it with a kind of black comedy. Even if the waves are crashing around her

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