Closer to Stone

The story of two brothers, one a soldier-peacekeeper with the UN and the other a sandstone sculptor.

Set in Australia, the Sahara (Morocco, Western Sahara and Algeria) during the Algerian civil war of the 1990s, and then in the US years later, Closer to Stone follows the journey of Sebastian (Bas), the sculptor brother, who must go in search of his missing brother, Jack.

His journey is a modern-day Heart of Darkness as he travels into the dangerous, war-torn, desert interior of northern Africa to discover what happened to his brother. What he finds there is not quite what he was expecting and has shocking consequences for him and his family.

Through the story of two very different brothers, raised as Catholics, the novel explores the rise of fundamentalist Islam and its culmination in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

However, the novel belongs to Bas who, through sculpting stone, attempts to find redemption from the dreadful events he witnesses in the desert.


‘Cleary takes his characters to a frightening, unexpected place, allowing his work to break free of the shackles of literary expectations and achieve an originality of its own.’ Saturday Age

‘Cleary is a skilled and at times mesmerising novelist. His narration of a brother’s search is as accomplished a book as you’ll read. Outstanding.’ Good Reading ‘5-star review’

An engaging, page-turning adventure that takes a disturbing twist.Sydney Morning Herald

‘Cleary has confidently cleared the hurdle of his second novel after the critical acclaim received by his first. Both are hauntingly and ambiguously titled: Closer to Stone follows The Comfort of Figs. … Cleary has more shocks to spring – another even darker quest to describe – as Closer to Stone shifts in place and time, before reaching its assured conclusion, one not altogether bereft of hope.’ Canberra Times

‘Simon Cleary’s writing has a wonderfully light touch as he deals with serious themes such as religious wars, sibling love and betrayal.’ Sunday Mail

‘Simon Cleary’s debut novel, The Comfort of Figs (2008), heralded the arrival of a significant new Australian writer. His second, Closer to Stone, should boost and entrench his reputation. Cleary’s prose is simple, elegant and highly accessible. A highly readable novel, intelligent and confronting in an unflashy way.’ Adelaide Advertiser

‘Cleary’s beautiful prose gripped me all the way to its poignant conclusion.’ The Chronicle 

‘A compelling narrative, [Cleary uses] evocative prose … and [has] an exquisite eye for detail.’ Weekend Australian

‘A significant, thoughtful and thought-provoking book. Closer to Stone is a stunning novel.’ ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Queensland Literary Awards “People’s Choice” Award, 2012

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