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Astley is a wonderful writer whose language is always surprising and vivid, but this novel didn t quite hit me like the others I ve read recently It s a fairly brutal attack on middle class Brisbane life in the mid 60s, as the social upheaval of the period hits Things get a bit melodramatic, and the coincidental connections between the characters don t always feel natural, but on a sentence by sentence level Astley is still excellent value. This is a gem from Australia MustRead Review aww2017 AusWomenWriters This is a gem from Australia MustRead Review aww2017 AusWomenWriters I do love a book that s as rich and complex as Thea Astley s The Slow Natives Her characterisation can be simply devastating Bernard had met Miss Trumper before Six times Seven He was not sure, but she could have given him a total of minutes devastatingly accurate, a summation of trade, an analysis false of looks exchanged or emphases misread Her frantic hands automatically began to twitch curls into provocative positions and one forefinger, desperate digit, rubbed the corner of her mou I do love a book that s as rich and complex as Thea Astley s The Slow Natives Her characterisation can be simply devastating Bernard had met Miss Trumper before Six times Seven He was not sure, but she could have given him a total of minutes devastatingly accurate, a summation of trade, an analysis false of looks exchanged or emphases misread Her frantic hands automatically began to twitch curls into provocative positions and one forefinger, desperate digit, rubbed the corner of her mouth to erase the trapped carmine grease she knew from experience would be there Then one hand stroked pleats, and then pushed at puffs of hair at her nape Her hair style had not changed since she wowed them during the war And she went, naked as birth, across the concrete veranda to the man who had never yet really seen her Hullo , said hearty Bernard, all pipe and chuckles What splendid weather for lotus eating And how are you p.95 In The Slow Natives, her fourth novel and the second of four to win the Miles Franklin Award, Astley is writing about an era of social change where not everyone has caught the bus It is the middle sixties, and in the fictional town of Condamine the role of women is still circumscribed even though the sexual revolution is stirring Astley s post menopausal married women are just that, and only that, and her unmarried women like Miss Trumper are oddities It is men who have agency And it is men who dominate the narrative voice The story begins with Bernard Leverson and his travails at a wearisome slide night Remember slide nights, anyone Such torture Bernard has a wife, Iris, who is having a tepid affair with Gerald Seabrook, which is a matter of indifference to Bernard but not to his son Keith Keith is adrift in the stormy waters of adolescence, and spends his judgemental time baiting his parents Through his eyes we see the damage done to the young by adult betrayals and indifference through his father s eyes we see the banality of a long marriage and an insipid career.The characterisation of women in this novel is quite striking when one remembers Astley s feminism To read the rest of my review please visit This is now one of my favourite Australian novels. The focus of this 1965 novel is the Leverson family, father Bernard, a music teacher, in a tired marriage with Iris both struggling to parent a rebellious 14 year old son Keith Their lives are ordinary, even humdrum They live in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia and the reader s first impression may well be that there is not enough drama to make a plot However Astley s novel deftly reveals the drama that is family life, the struggle to connect, to express love to a son who has gone from the pi The focus of this 1965 novel is the Leverson family, father Bernard, a music teacher, in a tired marriage with Iris both struggling to parent a rebellious 14 year old son Keith Their lives are ordinary, even humdrum They live in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia and the reader s first impression may well be that there is not enough drama to make a plot However Astley s novel deftly reveals the drama that is family life, the struggle to connect, to express love to a son who has gone from the pink, warm, wet infant to a whining, arrogating teenager, the failure to nurture a marriage whose early glow has failed to develop into a mature love Astley uses a shifting point of view to explore and express the gaps in communication that can create a void in the midst of a family First we see the parents from Keith s point of view He sees them clearly but through the harsh lens of a teenager who can t imagine ever declining physically or not making some great mark on the world Iris reflects on her husband s comment that after twenty years of marriage you feel as if you are the same sex and decides to have an affair choosing rather surprised Gerald Seabrook, a member of their social circle Bernard finds out eventually and feels sad for Gerald and tinnily amused his only concern being that Keith should not find out and be hurt For her part, once the affair is discovered, Iris s strongest emotion is anger that her husband doesn t seem to care For his part Gerald knows his part is to say that Bernard failed to appreciate her, and to comfort and fertilize the sparse vine that trailed all over his days, hungry tendrils finding him in the office, sneaking into domestic crevices and hope to God his own wife did not know Astley s characters are well drawn We are shown them as they see themselves and from the points of view of the other characters This approach reveals the asymmetry of relationships that create the miscommunications and misunderstandings that are a natural part of life Her descriptions are rich in humor even as they are direct Dr Leo Varga, who puts forward an intellectual persona at social gatherings with the Leverson s suburban circle but puts on a different cool surfer pose at his beach home Although he was ugly within reason, his belief in his fascination was an article of faith, a dogma pronounced ex cathedra, despite, or because of the fleshy nose , scrubbing brush beard and brilliant eyes that he could use masterfully, nailing his victim with a charm dart The priest Father Lambert is both Bernard Leverson s confessor and his partner in burying his pain in drink The various convents where Bernard goes to examine and grade music students are where he gets status, but a confrontation with a piano student who is also a nun opens his eyes to the fact that while he has the power to assess whether students, including the nun, have made the grade he also has power to wound through the lack of empathy with which he does this.By the point in the novel that Keith s clandestine mini forays into the larger world turn into a real and in the end calamitous road trip Astley has deftly contrasted teenage Keith s struggle for identity with the shells the adults have built around themselves in self protection, shells which make it hard to reach out to each other for fear of exposing their fears, shells whose rigidity has closed off their ability to develop mature relationships.The writing is brilliant For much of the book it seems so little is happening but in fact Astley is creating a complex and believable picture of the nuances of human relationships that is very recognizable to all of us who struggle daily with the challenges of understanding those we love and live with and being understood by them The description of Chookie Mumberson, who becomes Keith s partner in crime takes only a few lines to delineate his background and place in the world Behind the polka dot freckles bumpy moldings of his short nosed face with its light blue eyes can be observed without much pleasure Only a mother could and she never did Keith is described as being somber as lye when he is silenced at one point by his father At the point where Bernard realizes from Keith s white face that he know about his mother s affair Love fell, just for a few seconds, a wild and unexpected rain, with memories of bath times, animal shaped cakes of soap, red faced tantrums and small fierce fingers curling about his own Adtley uses humor to great effect to create the social setting Mrs Coady worshipfully fed another culture biscuit into the projector at the same time as she is tortured also by tight shoes and falsifying undergarments It s funny but also acute For my generation the travel sideshow given by my parent s better off friends was a particular misery.Thea Astley won the 1965 Miles Franklin prize for this book, Australia s highest literary honor given to the novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases I would say that this masterful book is not limited by its Australian setting but has universal relevance Sorry Thea, I quit this one about a third of the way through This is a rare thing for me, but I found the trials and tribulations of this dull middle class Brisbane suburbanites unbearable On top of that, the whole subplot of priests and nuns is justChrist, it bores me now even thinking about it Despite having won a record four Miles Franklins, it is easy to forget how fantastic a writer Thea Astley was Perhaps this is because it is her later and, frankly, weaker work that isavailable in second hand bookstores Perhaps it s the usual tired cultural cringe narrative still running through my generation s veins It certainly can t be because her themes or attitude are dated Her tales of vaguely unlikable, repressed, judgmental Australians still resonate Her characters glancing a Despite having won a record four Miles Franklins, it is easy to forget how fantastic a writer Thea Astley was Perhaps this is because it is her later and, frankly, weaker work that isavailable in second hand bookstores Perhaps it s the usual tired cultural cringe narrative still running through my generation s veins It certainly can t be because her themes or attitude are dated Her tales of vaguely unlikable, repressed, judgmental Australians still resonate Her characters glancing at one another, never looking in the same place at the same time, rarely able to express how they feel, usually unaware of the missed connections Worrying their teeth along the frayed edges of their cultural norms, unsettled by the new, but unsatisfied with the old.Astley strikes me as Australia s answer to Muriel Spark, or Margaret Drabble They too are authors who can seem a bit dried up to my generation but once the book has begun surprise us with their savagery and insight And unlike most of Australia s great writers born before 1940 Patrick White and Christina Stead come to mind , she was truly Australian from birth to death The Slow Natives haunts me, and I m not even sure it s one of her best books It is, nevertheless, a riveting portrait of the grayness of life and the chances some take to grab at flecks of colour therein or,often, the way ordinary people remain blind to those polychromatic moments Is Astley cruel Many readers think so I instead see her as honest, reflecting a guarded, territorial, tall poppy obsessed 1960s Australia I hope our culture has changed in 60 years I think it has But, then again, no one in Astley s fiction seems too far removed from our reality &DOWNLOAD ✖ The Slow Natives ☞ The winner of Australia s prize for lifetime achievement in literature chronicles one family s unraveling and their tentative rapprochement forged through tragedy Sheer pleasure, is how Newsday described Thea Astley s most recent book, Vanishing Points Now, with The Slow Natives, Astley s wit, sense of irony, and ability to delineate human foibles link her to such great observers of the human comedy as Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch The Slow Natives takes place on that familiar battleground where middle age and adolescence confront each other, in a climate of hostile bewilderment, contempt, and reluctant love At its center are music teacher Bernard Leverson, bored with his job and his marriage his wife, Iris, who is engaged listlessly in an affair and their rebellious teenage son, Keith Their path leads inevitably to tragedy, but also presses the Leversons toward a reappreciation of their lives and one another Here is a novel that confirms Thea Astley as one of the best writers of our time