“I hurtled through the uneven grass towards the grove of trees. The two smaller men followed me, laughing and calling out obscene threats; this was just a game to them.”
– Rosa Fedele
The Red Door
A Review by Linnéa Ryan
The Red Door by Rosa Fedele is a period mystery set in 1980s Australia. Like all good mysteries it is rife with red herrings, secrets, and lies. The novel follows many threads that weave in and out of each other, but they all intersect with Madeleine. A compelling dichotomy of wounded fragility and stubborn resilience, Madeleine is the curious, new landlady of an old estate named Rosalind. She comes to find that she may have received more than she bargained for when Rosalind proves to be at the heart of many dangerous secrets—secrets which some would go to terrible lengths to keep buried in the past.
Within the pages of The Red Door, readers will find themselves racing to piece together the clues presented to solve the novel’s many mysteries: Who is the illusive tenant in Number Three? Who is watching Anne and Madeleine? Is there really more to Monique than her villainous vanity? Who were Zahra and Amirah Billah? Why were they murdered?
When it comes to the author’s style of writing, Fedele’s prose is almost cinematic in nature. Even without the smattering of illustrations between select chapters, one can easily tell that an artist wrote the book. Acute attention is given to visual details throughout, from elaborate descriptions of landscapes and the intricacies of the Rosalind estate, to the eccentricities of the outfits that adorn her large cast of characters. Material items and the space they reside in are a large part of Fedele’s writing style. Her transitions between passages almost lend themselves better to a cinematic format than writing however, as they can be somewhat jarring in their quest to be mysterious and pull the reader too far out of the story’s rhythm.
That being said, it is this rich, sensory imagery that is one of Fedele’s strongest suits as a writer, along with her attention to relationships. One of the most captivating aspects of The Red Door is the achingly tender relationship between Madeleine and a young teenager named Claudia. The multiple mysteries of the novel are often overshadowed by the earnest depictions of Claudia’s abusive home life and her struggle to free herself. It is through the unfolding of their unlikely mentorship that Fedele’s true voice as a writer shines through. You may pick up The Red Door for its mysteries but it is the book’s poignant exploration of the bonds of friendship between women that will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.