Good Reads Review: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird



'Phosphorescence' made waves across the Australian literary landscape in 2020, and in a time when the world was feeling colder, smaller and darker as the effects of the COVID pandemic began to take effect. Journalist, author, mother and bioilluminescent enthusiast Julia Baird had a lot to say in this book, having only just come out of several challenges in her own life (most notably a severe battle with cancer), and this book serves as a quiet, beautiful antidote to the collective challenge we as a species are currently experiencing.


This is a book that opens very strongly, hitting you with beautiful anecdotes about things in our world that are genuinely inspiring. This book isn't a story of progression of things that inspire you when the world goes dark, but rather a selection of vignettes. This makes it very easy to pick up and read from wherever.


However, this can mean that the book occasionally feels directionless if you are reading it from front to back, and there are sections where Julia's personal story takes a lead over the actual subject matter, which can mean some parts meander and her own anecdotes can be heavy-handed at times. There is still plenty of enjoyment to be found however, with Julia's discussions with a friend obsessed with jellyfish, her chapter on the current struggles Christianity has with its own image compared with its aspirations, her overcoming her illness and even a beautiful coda of her searching for her own experience with the eponymous phenomena being personal highlights of this book.