Monthly Archives: February 2013

Lola Bensky – Lily Brett

Lola Bensky

Lola Bensky – Lily Brett

This was recommended by several people, but I did have a couple of false starts. It took me a while to appreciate Ms Brett’s writing style – not a criticism just a personal preference – in the end I enjoyed the novel.

Here’s the blurb …

Lola Bensky is a nineteen-year-old rock journalist who irons her hair straight and asks a lot of questions. A high-school dropout, she’s not sure how she got the job – but she’s been sent by her Australian newspaper right to the heart of the London music scene at the most exciting time in music history: 1967.

Lola spends her days planning diets and interviewing rock stars. In London, Mick Jagger makes her a cup of tea, Jimi Hendrix (possibly) propositions her and Cher borrows her false eyelashes. At the Monterey International Pop Festival, Lola props up Brian Jones and talks to Janis Joplin about sex. In Los Angeles, she discusses being overweight with Mama Cass and tries to pluck up the courage to ask Cher to return those false eyelashes.

Lola has an irrepressible curiosity, but she begins to wonder whether the questions she asks these extraordinary young musicians are really a substitute for questions about her parents’ calamitous past that can’t be asked or answered. As Lola moves on through marriage, motherhood, psychoanalysis and a close relationship with an unexpected pair of detectives, she discovers the question of what it means to be human is the hardest one for anyone – including herself – to answer.

Drawing on her own experiences as a young journalist, the bestselling author of Too Many Men has created an unforgettable character in the unconventional and courageous Lola. Genuinely funny and deeply moving, Lola Bensky shows why Lily Brett is one of our most distinctive and internationally acclaimed authors.

This novel had a bit of the Forrest Gump’s about it – being in the right place at the right time or maybe Lola is just very modest and worked very hard to be at the right place. There are some laugh out loud moments during the interviews with the rock stars, but there is a sadness to Lola as well. Her parents are holocaust survivors and struggle as parents. The usual vicissitudes of childhood must seem quite petty when you’ve survived Auschwitz. Renia, Lola’s mother, is obsessed by Lola’s weight – she is too fat. In fact Lola’s weight is almost another character in this novel – Lola is constantly thinking about diets and her weight.

The story is told from Lola’s perspective and she lives through interesting times and in interesting places. Knowing what happens to some of the people – Janis Joplin, Mama Cass is poignant and adds an extra element to the novel.

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The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler

The Beginner's Goodbye - Anne Tyler

The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler

I’m a Anne Tyler fan – a review here and here – I like how she can make the ordinary extraordinary.

I picked this one up from the library and it was quite an easy read (shorter than other Tyler novels).

Here is the blurb …

Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances–in their house, on the roadway, in the market.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron has spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, independent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly, he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage.

But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace.

Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.

A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler’s humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

This was an intriguing premise – right from the start we know Dorothy is dead and that she is visiting Aaron. It does take her a while to come back and at first she is just there not speaking, but then she talks and then they argue. This was a lovely way to show the progress of grief – at first Dorothy (and their life together) is perfect, but then he starts thinking other things – like how nice it is to sort his cupboards and know they will stay sorted, how Dorothy wasn’t very interested in food and how she didn’t pay much attention to how she looked.

The great thing about this novel is the fine detail – almost a series of vignettes of Aaron and Dorothy’s life together is portrayed. The first date – where Dorothy wears her white coat, the wedding – very small, the search for the triscuits, which ended so badly. Through all of these incidents character is revealed and the plot moves slowly forward.

Aaron’s publishing company publishes beginners guides to things – The Beginner’s Dinner Party – and this novel is a beginner’s guide to goodbye.

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