Listen to Irma on the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival podcast, interviewed by Jen Bowden. They talk about why Irma is obsessed with elephants, where her characters came from, the whirlwind of emotions on releasing a debut novel, her work with rescued elephants for the Save Elephant Foundation, the lust for travel in COVID times, the issue of likability in fiction, and the hashtag they want to start trending!
Listen to Irma on the Words and Nerds podcast with Dani Vee. They talk about how fiction can change the world, the ethics of volunteering abroad, on writing landscape and Thailand, the gift of her first draft experience, what it’s like to work with rescued elephants, how tourists can interact with animals ethically, and a whole lot more.
Out 1 March 2021
Hannah Bird has just arrived in Thailand. Disoriented and out of her depth, she meets Deven, a fierce and gutsy Australian expat who sweeps her into thrilling adventures rescuing elephants.
As they head deeper and deeper into the fraught world of elephant tourism, their lives become tangled in ways Hannah never imagined. But how far will they go to save a life?
Hannah is about to make a critical decision from which there will be no turning back, with shattering consequences.
The Breaking is an extraordinary debut. Sharply observed and richly vivid, it is an intensely moving story about the magnetic bond between two young women and the enduring cost of animal exploitation. It is at once devastating and exhilarating, and ultimately transformative.
Praise for The Breaking
‘A heart-stopping, unforgettable read. The Breaking will blow your mind.’ Angela Savage, author of Mother of Pearl
‘Evocative and urgent, The Breaking shows Gold’s talent and heart.’ Kate Mildenhall, author of The Mother Fault
‘Bold, passionate and fierce. A plea against powerlessness and indifference. I loved every minute.’ Karen Viggers, author of The Orchardist’s Daughter
‘Sensual and hyper-dangerous, Gold’s take on human love and animal cruelty is a real tour de force.’ John Clanchy, author of In Whom We Trust
‘I just inhaled The Breaking. So beautifully, clearly written — such skill. I never felt as if I was being ‘delivered’ information, yet by the end I’d learned so much. To write like this — to end up with something that feels effortless and complete, and moves with its own energy, like real life — it’s a bloody hard thing to do. An extraordinary achievement.’ Peggy Frew, author of Hope Farm and Islands
‘The Breaking is a brilliant novel. Tautly paced and immersive. Deeply emotional. A book that will be remembered.’ Fiona Robertson, author of If You’re Happy
‘So compelling, haunting and completely addictive. Irma’s writing style manages to feel literary yet easy reading all at once. I’m so keen to read whatever she does next.’ Liz Ledden, author and co-host of One More Page
‘An assured and powerful debut … gripping and moving … the novel unfolds in three sections, each leading seamlessly into the next … Gold has a real talent for dialogue … Hardly a word is wasted throughout the book, and Gold spins a narrative web around the reader, without being noticed, that is artful, without being too arty … Some of the passages in The Breaking will stay with the reader for a very long time after the book is finished. Gold has produced a rich and thought-provoking novel, written in lucid and engaged prose. I hope The Breaking proves to be her breakout novel, with many more to come.’ The Canberra Times, read the full review
‘Irma Gold’s vivid, dramatic debut The Breaking hurtles into a magnetic attraction between two young Australian women who meet in Chiang Mai, Thailand … The Breaking grabs you from the outset, with sharp dialogue, taut storytelling, a convincing relationship dynamic, and an atmospheric portrayal of Thailand, enriched, one suspects, by first-hand experience.’ Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, read the full review
‘The severe mistreatment of elephants makes this, at times, a harrowing read … Gold’s lyricism works, and the writing serves to illuminate, and not distract from, the scenes … An atmospheric novel that delicately educates as it entertains.’ The Weekend Australian
‘Writer and editor Irma Gold’s debut novel has a propulsive energy and a visceral sense of place that’s informed by Gold’s own experience of working with rescued elephants in Thailand … The Breaking doesn’t shy away from the complexity of its themes, acknowledging the imperfection of love and the complicated ramifications of following your convictions all the way to the end. It’s an unusual book, tackling both the messiness of human desire and the flawed nature of our relationships with animals, and may appeal to readers who enjoy the work of writers like Laura Jean McKay, Jessie Tu and Laura McPhee-Browne.’ Bookseller + Publisher magazine
‘Gold’s taut, precise prose captures the atmosphere [of Thailand] … Whereas the media often treats young adulthood as a frivolous and self-indulgent stage of life, Gold astutely captures its agonies. In particular, she takes youthful idealism seriously, legitimising the quest of the two protagonists to find a way to live that does not simply capitulate to the status quo.’ Newtown Review of Books, read the full review
‘I absolutely loved The Breaking. It had me with the opening sentence. After finishing I had to sit awhile, holding the book, and thinking it all through. I didn’t anticipate the end. At all. It’s a terrific novel. So much to get and learn from the story. Deven and Hannah will stay with me. And I’ve not been to Thailand but I had a real sense of place. Bravo!’ Deb Stevens, retired A&U sales agent
‘Wow! This is a book that makes you think and feel, and stays with you long after the heart-pumping ending. Gold’s characters are believable, her Thailand setting is evocative (you can almost feel and smell it) and the important (and devastating) issue of animal cruelty, endemic in elephant tourism is shown through a compelling narrative of two young women navigating the world and their place in it, as well as their feelings for each other. My copy of The Breaking came in the mail on Friday, and I thought I’d have a quick peek inside … and I was hooked! I finished it on Saturday afternoon — it was that compelling! … A compelling, immersive, thought-provoking read.’ Deborah Tidball, author of The Scared Book
‘What I noticed as soon as I opened the first page was how beautifully written it was. It gives us plenty to think about of what we do when we go overseas to other countries, and what we do to try and change the world … I think it’s going to be a really popular read. It’s something a little bit different — beautifully written with amazing characters.’ Dani Vee, Words and Nerds podcast
‘From the moment I picked this one up I was completely drawn into Hannah’s story and absolutely flew through it … The writing has a really vivid and dynamic feel … The perspective puts the reader firmly in Hannah’s shoes in a way that is perfect for building intimacy … the reader has their eyes opened to the issues around elephant tourism at the same time as Hannah does … Gold did a brilliant job of conveying the issues around this without feeling preachy … My favourite thing was seeing the relationship between Hannah and Deven … I don’t want to spoil anything, but I really wanted to mention how well I think this was written. If you’re after a fun and moving story that will leave you thinking long after the last page I’d encourage you to take Hannah’s hand and let her and Deven show you around Thailand!’ Bookish Bron, read the full review
‘The Breaking packs an emotional punch in a bittersweet plot about friendship, loyalty and morality.’ HerCanberra
‘The Breaking has broad appeal and has an urgency to its narrative style that matches the gravity of the eco themes it deals with … Irma captures the right beat with her two female characters, twenty somethings, young and fiercely passionate about animal rights and the state of the planet, poised for action right now, consequences be damned. I love how Irma traversed this; the consequences of taking extreme action were laid out in a clear ripple like effect and Hannah’s realisation of this in the moments of ensuing chaos was a powerful narrative force. Australian literature has an exciting new voice on the scene and I look forward to reading more from Irma Gold.’ Theresa Smith, read the full review
‘An intimate and textured debut … thrilling and tense and urgent … The Breaking will remind you that good intentions aren’t always enough, and that real problems never have easy solutions.’ Keeping Up With the Penguins, read full review here
‘The Breaking is a confronting, heartbreaking, visceral, bold and unforgettable story of the link between animal tourism and horrific cruelty … Alongside the narrative of the elephants is the story of self-identity, coming-of-age and female friendship between Hannah and Deven, also explored with compassion, humour and understanding … Some books you read because of the information they impart. The Breaking is one of those books – I felt deeply affected by the insight I gained into an industry I realised I knew little about. And that is what sets this apart from other novels about Australian travellers experiencing a foreign country: the deep and lasting impression of connection and feeling for animal welfare and what might be done to ensure boundaries are not crossed while still ensuring cultural integrity and basic human needs are met.’ Cass Moriarty, read full review
‘The Breaking is a visceral account that stimulates all the senses. Cultural sensitivities are observed, alongside the tricky balance of portraying both the beauty and violence of the country … Gold’s own experiences of volunteering on various rescue missions in Thailand lend the book an imprimatur of authenticity.’ The Saturday Paper, read the full review
‘This is such a gutsy novel: Gold is not afraid of exploring difficult terrain, including the intricate connection between culture, economic survival, and the treatment of animals. The narrative, which simply (or not so simply) refuses to take the easy road, also explores the way love can be, yes, surprising, but also frustrating, hard work, and, ultimately, life-changing. As to the elephants? Well, this reader will never look at them the same way again. Courageous, wonderfully written, wise, and unforgettable.’ Nigel Featherstone, author of Bodies of Men