Kirsten Tranter’s second novel—following The Legacy—is the story of a group of college friends who travel together each year to Las Vegas. Dylan, the charismatic confidante of the group, the keeper of secrets and solver of problems, has died in an accident, so the remaining four friends plan the annual trip. Elliot, an erudite yet awkward English lecturer, narrates the novel. He is the most naïve of the group, so his perspective makes it easy for the reader to slip into the group and share disgust at Cameron and Brian’s hypocrisy, concern over Tallis’ drinking, and to wonder: what holds these friendships together? There are similarities in this story to The Legacy: both share a naïve, lovelorn and lost character driven by the absence of a friend who still seems all too present. A Common Loss is a potent story of secrets, love, friendship and the bonds that keep people close; in the case of these friends it is a shared history that also threatens to destroy them. Brimming with blackmail and deception and laced with grief, poetry, simmering emotional tension and relationships both budding and exhausted, Tranter’s second novel does not disappoint.
Portia Lindsay works at UNSW Bookshop. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.