Top positive review
NEITHER CRICKET NOR KANGAROOS
29 July 2019
One expects a novel written by an Australian to be about cricket, desert landscapes, beefy men drinking beer or perhaps a kangaroo or two – but this book has none of them!
Three families are introduced in the beginning of this book. The efficient Cecilia is happily married to the gentle John-Paul and they live in Sydney with their three little daughters, when Cecilia accidentally discovers a terrible secret about her husband’s past. Meanwhile, Tess is devastated when her hears that her husband Will has fallen in love with her beloved cousin and business partner Felicity. The elderly Rachel Crowley is still grieving over the tragic death of her daughter many years ago, when her son and daughter in law inform her that they are shortly moving to New York, which will deprive her of the company of her only grandchild.
Initially, the stories of the three families are like separate strands – but as the novel proceeds, the reader begins to understand the links between them. The author weaves a wonderful tale of relationships changing with the situations. The large number of characters may seem confusing at first – I had to jot down names and relationships on a piece of paper but I stopped referring to it by the time I reached the middle of the book!
Although the book is set in a large city like Sydney, it describes a close-knit community, not unlike Alice Munro’s stories set in small towns in Canada, or R.K.Narayan’s stories set in Malgudi. Since the focus is on people, not places, Indian readers can mentally transplant the story to Allahabad or Patna or Chandigarh, and it will not lose its impact.
The author’s style is generally simple, but many details are revealed in an oblique manner. Her strength lies in the plot and characters, but occasionally she comes up with a brilliant passage, for example, a child’s feelings when her parents decide to divorce: “Everyone she knew had a mum and a dad who lived in the same house. Her circle of friends and family was too small and suburban and Catholic. She knew the word ‘divorce’ but it was like the work ‘earthquake’. It wasn’t something that would ever happen to her…”
The author also excels in expressing herself through paradoxical statements, for instance: “She’s always made a point of pretending not to be interested in money, because she was, in fact, very interested in it.”
On the whole, a highly readable novel.