Just finished reading a novel by an Australian author I’d not heard of before. I picked it up in my local library because I liked the title. I’m a lazy and picky reader these days, and this one held my attention from start to finish, and has a lot of meat in it.
I felt it deserved more attention and a wider audience. It’s This Too Shall Pass by Melbourne author and poet, S J Finn, published early last year (2011) by Sleepers Press.
I reckon it would be an excellent novel for a book group. Lots to trigger reactions and get discussion firing.
Finn has successfully created a complex narrative where the protagonist, Monty, is as much defined and affected by her work relationships (as a social worker/therapist working with adolescents and children in the public sector) as she is by her love relationships and her role as a mother. Which is actually quite rare.
It takes skill and perseverance to write an awareness of politics into a novel in a way that fosters the drama rather than detracts from it, and it’s easy to pick at it when it occasionally falls down or gets a little heavy handed. Most authors and publishers seem to play it safe and keep off that turf. Finn has handled it well, and I hope she has a long and rewarding career as a writer.
Here’s a few extracts from interviews and reviews that I found from a quick scout around the Net:
SJ Finn: I’m so alert to the political aspects of life it’s hard for me to leave them out of a story, especially one that’s written so directly on the page such as This Too Shall Pass. When, at her core, the central character of this novel alters, so too is she forced to see that the world around her isn’t the place she’d always imagined it to be. Sometimes finding it dumbfounding, sometimes hurtful, the action in the novel is pared down to drill home the inconsistencies of what’s in front of her. Like Alice in Alice In Wonderland – despite the hallucinogenic quality of what Alice sees down the rabbit hole – Jen Montgomery has to complete a journey through a myriad of experiences she would not have otherwise encountered had she remained in the mainstream so to speak. Most of us, if we happen to fit within the cushioned margins, don’t believe there is such a thing as discrimination. Even when we hear it, unless we’ve got the map to read it with – the language, the experience of a similar thing – we often can’t decipher it. When people fit into norms, and for the most part they grow up not knowing they are the privileged who do, they are reticent to accept the experience of the outsider, which is a sad indictment on the individual and how our systems are organised to reflect that view. It is also an indictment we should rage against.
This one is from an interview in The Ember:
SJF: As a family therapist I’m very interested in narrative therapy. Through defining our stories we give meaning to much of what has happened to us, but more than that, we come to see why we have done the things we have and become the people we are. Our lives do not happen in a vacuum. When one thing changes there is a ricochet effect, like cybernetics, everything is effected by everything else.
“This Too Shall Pass is a wonderful curveball of a novel that tackles big issues in an oblique way and also has the courage to wrestle with a particularly important issue that is too often left out of contemporary Australian literature: the workplace. Despite the fact that most of us spend forty hours or more working each week, too often our novelists omits these issues, focusing instead on personal relationships and matters of the heart. I suspect that some reviewers may be confused by the degree to which the domestic themes of the novel’s early pages are pushed to the side, but these omissions are, in fact, both intentional and incredibly effective, and again display Finn’s considerable talent; at virtually every point she seems in complete control of both the narrative and her narrator’s voice.”