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Posts Tagged ‘Thea Astley’

Thea Astley is one of Australia’s greatest writers. She is a four-time winner of the Miles Franklin award. ‘Girl with a Monkey‘ is her first book. I discovered Thea Astley through Lisa’s (from ANZ Litlovers) review of her books.

Elsie is a teacher in a small town. Her time in the school is getting over and Elsie is leaving town to move to work in a school in another small town. The story describes what happens on the last day before Elsie leaves, how easy or hard it is for her to part from friends and from her school, how hard it is for her to break up with her boyfriend who is possessive and is obsessed with her. As the story describes that last day, we are also taken into the past, and we see how things were when Elsie moved to that town, how she met Laura, her best friend, how two men vied for her love, how she favoured one over the other and how this man turned out to be obsessive, even dangerous.

I enjoyed reading ‘Girl with a Monkey’. The story was interesting but what I loved most was Thea Astley’s prose. It was not the kind of prose you can push forward with or blitz through, you have to pay attention, you have to let the words come to you and work their magic. As Thea Astley herself says in the book in a different context – “Jostling and rushing were unknown in these northern latitudes because they were almost an impossibility under the vertical sun. Here one became a lounger, a lover of shade-patches and the cool gulfs of doorways.” In cricket language, we can’t read the book like we are batting during a T20 match. We need to read it like we are batting on the first day morning of a Melbourne or Brisbane test, waiting for the ball to come to us, navigating the swing and the seam and not rushing around but taking our time and enjoying the experience. I did that and it was very beautiful. Astley’s beautiful sentences were a pleasure to read and I loved that aspect of the book very much. I want to read another Astley book just for her prose.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourite passages from the book.

“There was some hardness in her that made her feel no emotion at all towards things she left, only to those she came back to. So many people and undertakings had abandoned her, or alternatively she had been forced to abandon so many, that a parting was no difficult thing. The very emptiness of the future gave a sorrowful pleasure. It was akin to travelling continually in space, tacking briefly towards some unattainable astral beach only to be swept away before anchoring safely.”

“There is a certain permanence of beauty and truth to be extracted from natural scenery. We all have those moments of crystalline perception when the flesh, divinely prompted, seems to melt into nothingness, leaving the mind nervously aware, apprehending, cut off from was or will be, swung from there to here: those times when pausing at night beside the weatherboard house, starved for real music, a piano cuts the stillness with melodic scimitars, boomerangs of tune; or being a new-comer to the stunning plainsong of mountain and valley sweeping down into green sunlight, the breath is held unaware.”

Have you read read Thea Astley’s ‘Girl with a Monkey’ or any other book by her? What do you think about it?

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