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This is a very very good book and a worthy winner of the Miles Franklin Though short, about 140 pages, author Jessica Anderson has packed in a life time of emotion with an almost seemingly bitter sweet autobiographical work The books narrator, 70 year old Nora Porteous, has returned to Brisbane after many years absence and reflects back on her life She recalls early lost opportunities but also that one daring life decision that would also have been an anathema to the conservative attitudes This is a very very good book and a worthy winner of the Miles Franklin Though short, about 140 pages, author Jessica Anderson has packed in a life time of emotion with an almost seemingly bitter sweet autobiographical work The books narrator, 70 year old Nora Porteous, has returned to Brisbane after many years absence and reflects back on her life She recalls early lost opportunities but also that one daring life decision that would also have been an anathema to the conservative attitudes of her depression years life and times Generations of women trapped into, and by, the constrictions of those times I could imagine being dragged into the maelstrom of conflicting emotions that are Nora s memories and thoughts Reading this as a male in their late 50 s I feel that this review hardly does the book justice Highly recommended 5 1978 Miles Franklin award winner and no wonder Nora Porteous, now in her 70s, returns from London to the Queensland house she grew up in She calls it a house, not a home She arrives exhausted after a long train ride up from Sydney, doesn t remember anyone, doesn t care to But she s almost immediately bed ridden with pneumonia so becomes a reluctant captive of the townsfolk who take solicitous care of her and insist on reminiscing She is stunned when they show her gifts they d saved that 5 1978 Miles Franklin award winner and no wonder Nora Porteous, now in her 70s, returns from London to the Queensland house she grew up in She calls it a house, not a home She arrives exhausted after a long train ride up from Sydney, doesn t remember anyone, doesn t care to But she s almost immediately bed ridden with pneumonia so becomes a reluctant captive of the townsfolk who take solicitous care of her and insist on reminiscing She is stunned when they show her gifts they d saved that she d made as a girl She had fled home for Sydney as soon as she could, finding freedom as a talented seamstress in a colourful community of artists and designers But before long, she d acquired a disapproving new husband, who moved her into his mother s house in the suburbs From the frying pan into the fire.Escaping her marriage and other grim repercussions of Sydney life , she headed for London, where she was adopted by theatrical costumiers and created another new life withnew friends She wonders now what her clever London flatmates would think of these dull hometown folk, until she is startled to learn shocking things about her past some she never knew, some she is rediscovering An axe murder An old scar on her wrist Nightmares of drowning in blood.She says her friends in London consider their past lives asa string of roughly graded beadsor a lineartrack with detours But for some years now I have likened mine to a globe suspended in my head, and ever since the shocking realization that waste is irretrievable, I have been careful not to let this globe spin to expose the nether side I like to manipulate the globe myself I don t like those accidental flicks In fact, there are some that I positively dread, and if I see one of these coming I rush to forestall it, forcing the globe to steadiness so that onceit faces the right way there is always a nether side to my globe, and on that side flickers and drifts my one time husband and, I have often thought, a very good place for him tooToday, the most important people in her life are the very people she d dismissed to that nether side As it spins toward the light at last, it shines on her father, who died when she was only six, which triggersmemories As she recovers, she misses her London friends, but she s determined to remain alone If they are her audience, thatimposes restrictions , because wepresent truthful fictions of our livesto each other.She she no longer wishes to censor her memories at present, my concern is to find things My globe of memory is in free spin, with no obscure side And there we leave her I love thinking of her there We don t all think we re too good for this place, Lady Muck Here s yet another under appreciated novel celebrating a non conformist woman ahead of her time The 30s and 40s in Australia wasn t a friendly place for a different woman Nora wanted out of her small town and as tended to be the custom of the time, marriage offered the only ticket And then You re evenstuck Of course, it didn t help that Nora s husband was a prick one especially fun part was him calling her frigid when shWe don t all think we re too good for this place, Lady Muck Here s yet another under appreciated novel celebrating a non conformist woman ahead of her time The 30s and 40s in Australia wasn t a friendly place for a different woman Nora wanted out of her small town and as tended to be the custom of the time, marriage offered the only ticket And then You re evenstuck Of course, it didn t help that Nora s husband was a prick one especially fun part was him calling her frigid when she s tentative sexually, and then a whore when she finally gets into it Nora s life was unusual for the era, and upon going home again in her 70s after a lifetime abroad, she was hit with her mortality and the gentle acceptance that comes with letting go, at least a little, of all that regret and self doubt This is a glum tale without much triumph Change, when it finally arrived, came too late for the women of Nora s generation This is an absolute stunner It gets Australia completely right without the cheapness of St John s shots It nails the state of captivity of women without agency Nora s need to escape, and taking marriage as the way out is heartbreaking The role of education, and eventhat of reading, which I might add is big in Women in Black and also in My Brilliant Friend comes comes into play here too To be educated is to escape the poverty and meanness of life in city Australia and country Australia This is an absolute stunner It gets Australia completely right without the cheapness of St John s shots It nails the state of captivity of women without agency Nora s need to escape, and taking marriage as the way out is heartbreaking The role of education, and eventhat of reading, which I might add is big in Women in Black and also in My Brilliant Friend comes comes into play here too To be educated is to escape the poverty and meanness of life in city Australia and country Australia as much as it may extract you from neighbourhood Naples To forsake education in favour of marriage as one s saviour is to court utter ruination To read is to build one s dreams of escape Oh, I did this as a child and many must have had it much, much worse than I.Rest here Thanks again to for bringing to my attention another great Australian author who I had not previously been aware of.This is a beautifully scripted novel of the ageing Nora who has returned to Australia after 30 years in London Nora wanted independence and the ability to make her own friends and choices Her mother and sister were dominating, her marriage to her egotistical and mean human a disaster.But the book containsimportant themes such as, the unre Thanks again to for bringing to my attention another great Australian author who I had not previously been aware of.This is a beautifully scripted novel of the ageing Nora who has returned to Australia after 30 years in London Nora wanted independence and the ability to make her own friends and choices Her mother and sister were dominating, her marriage to her egotistical and mean human a disaster.But the book containsimportant themes such as, the unreliability of memory, the impact of war on the survivors, the loss of a parent when in childhood, the narrowness and meanness of people, the joy of reading and the fragility of old age.It was a joy to read A beautiful quiet book about an old woman returning to her childhood home fifty years after fleeing it Nora escapes small town life for a bad marriage and then escapes the marriage for a life in London As she settles back into the old Queensland house, she reminisces about her life, her family and her decisions This is a short, sad book that somehow presents a complete picture of a women caught in a time where wanting anything other than a marriage and kids was almost impossible and captures A beautiful quiet book about an old woman returning to her childhood home fifty years after fleeing it Nora escapes small town life for a bad marriage and then escapes the marriage for a life in London As she settles back into the old Queensland house, she reminisces about her life, her family and her decisions This is a short, sad book that somehow presents a complete picture of a women caught in a time where wanting anything other than a marriage and kids was almost impossible and captures her quiet reflections on the life she managed It s lovely |READ KINDLE ♟ Tirra Lirra by the River ♚ One of Australia s most celebrated novels one woman s journey from Australia to LondonNora Porteous, a witty, ambitious woman from Brisbane, returns to her childhood home at age seventy Her life has taken her from a failed marriage in Sydney to freedom in London she forged a modest career as a seamstress and lived with two dear friends through the happiest years of her adult lifeAt home, the neighborhood children she remembers have grown into compassionate adults They help to nurse her back from pneumonia, and slowly let her in on the dark secrets of the neighborhood in the years that have lapsedWith grace and humor, Nora recounts her desire to escape, the way her marriage went wrong, the vanity that drove her to get a facelift, and one romantic sea voyage that has kept her afloat during her dark years Her memory is imperfect, but the strength and resilience she shows over the years is nothing short of extraordinary A book about the sweetness of escape, and the mix of pain and acceptance that comes with returning home Such an understated but wonderfully written and cleverly structured novel I agree with all the enthusiastic reviews, but must admit I was starting to get as bored and frustrated with her first marriage as she was And then just at the right moment, Nora makes a big move Literally My keen interest returned for the rest of the novel.But at the end I felt that I was still missing an important part of the jigsaw that had been so beautifully pieced together for me by Jessica Anderson the signific Such an understated but wonderfully written and cleverly structured novel I agree with all the enthusiastic reviews, but must admit I was starting to get as bored and frustrated with her first marriage as she was And then just at the right moment, Nora makes a big move Literally My keen interest returned for the rest of the novel.But at the end I felt that I was still missing an important part of the jigsaw that had been so beautifully pieced together for me by Jessica Anderson the significance of the title Despite the early allusion to its source The Lady of Shalott , I just didn t get it So, I started to dig around to find out , and thanks to Lisa s excellent GR review and link to a longer review on her own site Tirra Lirra by the River on ANZLitlovers Litblog , I found this pointer to a 2012 review by Claire Corbett in Overland which made the penny drop for me with a huge BOING Brilliant Perfect Here is the relevant section of the review but it s well worth reading the whole article.Tirra Lirra by the River quotes from Tennyson s poem The Lady of Shalott The Lady is cursed never to look directly upon reality but may only see reflections in her mirror and then translate those shadows of the world into her weaving So, she is an artist but an artist who cannot bear the full glare of the Real, the Real that flashes into her mirror in a vision of masculine splendour Tirra lirra, by the river Sang Sir Lancelot.The Lady of Shalott is the perfect symbol for Nora Porteous the glamour of European high culture, of Camelot, is unattainable, as is its male apotheosis, the shining knight with his gemmy bridle and his coal black curls Nora Porteous is also an artist in textiles she embroiders beautiful tapestries and later becomes a skilled dressmaker.Another great observation by Claire Corbett The interweaving of the strands shows that Nora is never truly at home not in her Queensland childhood house, not in Sydney except for the all too brief idyll at Potts Point, not in the longed for escape to London and not in the final return to the childhood house.The book ends, true to its chosen form, in a revelation This is the meaning of an image that has haunted the narrator her whole life the step of a horse, the nod of a plume For me the revelation was so moving I finished the book in tears Anderson s story hints that finally, our home is in other people.QUOTES OF FAVOURITE LINES My mother didn t like me much I first realised it when I was about six, and had started school, and ha seen other children with their mothers You don t like me much, do you I asked one afternoon Don t be ridiculous, child The very idea Never, never let me hear you say that again It must have been hard on her, having to pretend I can t remember feeling deprived, as they say today, or holding it against her To tell the truth, I didn t like her much either Our natures were antipathetic It happensoften than admitted p 20 21 Having gone to so much trouble to deceive them about my feelings I should not have been made so bitter by my success On the long train journey back to Sydney, torpid and exhausted, I kept hearing those three words reckless, cynical, frivolous Reckless I was, and cynical and frivolous I sometimes felt, but even at the top of that bent, even as I was walking up the gangplank of the ship, with a tiny hat clamped to one side of my silly head, I as weighted by a sub stratum of sadness I knew that like fruit affected by hard drought, I was likely to be rotten before ripe Sometimes I believed it was already too late, but at others I was seized by a desperate optimism that expressed itself in spates of chatter and laughter and hectic activity p 103 104 Colin her ex sent a bunch of roses with a card on which he had written No hard feelings They re like bloody pink cabbages, I said, and threw them overboard Ida and the watercolourist her friends were shocked.Those roses, as I see them now, rocking on the thick green water of the dockside do pose a question Although I still believe that Colin sent them to demonstrate his nobility to Pearl his new wife , and although at the time I could feel, almost as if I were there, the exudation of his self satisfaction as he wrote no hard feelings , other reasons do occur I consider regret, even shock at the realisation of how we had wasted each other And because I can still ask the question, I must ask another Have I given an accurate account of Colin Porteous, or have I merely provided another substitute At number six a house in London that she lived in our speculation on the roses always ended in laughter Well, it was certainly very cryptic of Colin Perhaps the real man has been so overscored by laughter that he will never be retrieved As a rule, when we can t find even one good quality in a person, we are prejudiced, and by that rule I must admit my prejudice Pearl may have been able to mine seams in him disregarded by me, or may have been practical enough to disregard the ones I mined p 104 105 He was a middle aged, squat bodied American, of considerable honesty and charm He began by making me laugh, and laughter weakened me easily to love Hilda, out of her varied experience, used to say that of all aphrodisiacs, laughter is the one most unjustly ignored, and I, out of my limited experience, my very limited experience, used always to agree p 105 One day in the Mediterranean he remarked that if he had been free he would have liked to marry me It is an easy thing for a man to say in such circumstances, but because he was not a man who said easy things, I believed him, and in retrospect, I still do All the same, I would have been afraid to marry him I felt it was precisely the absence of a future together that enabled us to love without cruel possessiveness The voyage was peaceful, with calm seas and skies, and as day succeeded day, and I continued to keep this friend and lover by my side, and to wake up each morning to the instant realisation of his presence in the ship, I grew incredulous of so much luck and happiness, and would not have dared to risk it by extending it further The definite break on arrival goodbye and no addresses was at my insistence, and the argument that caused confirmed me in it p 106 107 I want to be simple, utterly simple Like water No chance You ll never be simple, and neither shall I We both had to start disguising ourselves too early She looked at me, half frowning, half laughing You know, Nora, you re very intelligent I know Isn t it a pity I m so stupid Of course, I underestimated Olive If she did not arrive at simplicity in her person, she did so in her later books, whereas I never have, in anything p 119 Further on in the novel, Olive writes to Nora to tell her she had met an Austrian Doctor of Philosophy and was going to live with him in Vienna I wrote and asked if that would make her simple, and she replied that she thought it very likely He is very serious You would laugh at him, or perhaps not In any case, he has amplified my life as no one else has done I see now how mechanical my life was, and my writing as well p 121 122 I was proud to be keeping myself above the hunger line I had the curious feeling that the period of hard work and privation had been lying in wait for me for a long time, and to meet it at last, and survive it by my own efforts, gave me intense satisfaction p 122 Some people are homeless wherever they live, he said You are And so am I But you are an Englishman in your own country I am homeless on this earth, he said with a smile And so are you Once you admit it, you know, you ll find it has advantages The thing is to admit it, and relax, and not be forever straining forward I am not straining forward I am waiting, and occupying myself while I wait Which is quite a different matter And besides, I said, to turn the conversation, I don t want to live in a climate where they can t grow oranges p 125 126 I continue to smile after Jack Cust goes, extending the amused indulgence of old age to that foolish young woman and that boy I speculate on what would have happened if I had met him again when we were both adults say, on the visit I made before sailing for London It could easily have happened I imagine myself sitting beside the creek with my nephew, listening to the she oaks and watching the yabbie rising to the bait suspended in the muddy water I look up suddenly, and see him standing there But of course, his face is now the face of my shipboard lover Later that day, it occurs to me to wonder what they would have made of Arch at number six And I find I am glad, very glad, that I did not recall him in time to expose him I believe there were times when I very nearly did so, because I remember that when we talked of jobs we had had, work we had done when young, I never once mentioned having worked in a newsagent s and stationer s shop And I remember too that this avoidance, and my impulse to change the subject, used always to slightly puzzle me I knew it was not snobbery my snobberies were never of that sort and even as I diverted the flow of the conversation, I mentally charted those little snags of perplexity, so that one day I could return on my tracks to examine and resolve them But I never did so, and Arch stayed on the dark side and now I can be glad that he was never overlaid by the discussion, speculation, and humour that will always bring uncertainty to my view of Colin Porteous p 140 141 This bookis basically the epitome of supposedly meaningful Australian books that I can t stand The only way I got through this hideous attempt at literature was to force myself to sit down and read it late one night, on pain of actually writing an assignment It starts off with something like I am wearing a woollen suit greyish, it doesn t matter WELL IF IT DOESN T MATTER, DON T START THE DAMN BOOK OFF BY SAYING IT And this is what we are meant to be studying for our final year in h This bookis basically the epitome of supposedly meaningful Australian books that I can t stand The only way I got through this hideous attempt at literature was to force myself to sit down and read it late one night, on pain of actually writing an assignment It starts off with something like I am wearing a woollen suit greyish, it doesn t matter WELL IF IT DOESN T MATTER, DON T START THE DAMN BOOK OFF BY SAYING IT And this is what we are meant to be studying for our final year in high schoolyep, our generation will be SO well educated But I digress The novel is written in a hazy, Dick and Jane go to the Seaside present tense throughout, which further underlines why this book should not be read by anyone with a higher reading capacity than twelve The protagonist is a wishy washy, complaining, unsociable, vague woman that I don t believe any reader could like She s not even an unpleasant but yet beloved by readers type character, like good old Snape although I suspect the addition of Alan Rickman played a large part in that interpretation she s just awful Throughout, Anderson hints at vague trauma the young Archie, Colin in bed in the woman s life, but it is all so vague that I just felt incredibly confused Apparently, it s supposed to be about finding one s identity and the connection between places we grew up and our identities but Nora our charming protagonist has no personality Apart from being intolerably boring, and disliking everyone who tries to help her out And after spending the entire novel basically talking about how much she wanted to get away from the house , she suddenly decides to return there as an old woman just recovered from pneumonia, and live alone in a house that she claims she hated, aided by a lovely old couple she whinges about the entire time What is the point She seemed to be a mighty lot happier in London, a place in which she knows people she actually likes The best thing about the publication was the inclusion of the Tennyson quote As a GR friend has said, the writing feels awkward at the start of the novel, but settles down reasonably quickly, and thereafter is a pleasure to read It s also a fine technical feat two parallel narratives, one of Nora in the let s call it present, and then the how did she get to be in this present narrative that she s remembering Most impressive of all is present Nora s own interpretation of past Nora s activities, and even of present Nora s few books are willing to explicitly show the wo As a GR friend has said, the writing feels awkward at the start of the novel, but settles down reasonably quickly, and thereafter is a pleasure to read It s also a fine technical feat two parallel narratives, one of Nora in the let s call it present, and then the how did she get to be in this present narrative that she s remembering Most impressive of all is present Nora s own interpretation of past Nora s activities, and even of present Nora s few books are willing to explicitly show the workings of the character s mind about herself in such depth Otherwise, a raft of themes and issues that make this an obvious revival book gender, art, poverty, modernization, you name it, all done in an unpretentious, non judgemental way Which makes sense, since the narrator is an aged, sickly woman who is slightly distant from her self and others around her