Elizabeth Jolley, My Father’s Moon (Penguin 1989)
I started this more from duty than for pleasure. Previously I’d read just the one short story by Elizabeth Jolley and seen the movie of The Well, and failed to be grabbed. But I want to be well read in Aust Lit, and I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t just sexism that had me avoiding this Big Name Author. It’s a slim book, easy to read on public transport, described by the cover blurb as ‘the novel at the heart of all her work’.
It’s probably very good. Middle class English schoolgirls, then nurses in a hospital during World War Two, then teachers at a ‘progressive’ school (though not in that order – this is a Literary Novel of 1989, remember, and a lot is told out of chronological order for no apparent reason other than to play with the reader’s mind) are variously mean, petty, homoerotic, spiteful, class-conscious, kind, gossipy, weird, naive, vulnerable, pretentious, callous, romantic, obtuse, pregnant – though the narrator, who happily has described two women waltzing naked, is too reticent to give us anything physical about the moment of conception. It’s very well written, and made me think of Blake: ‘Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.’
So now I can say I’ve read some Elizabeth Jolley. I don’t feel the urge to read more.