Alison’s Picks – January 2020

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. And what a weekend it turned out to be. Three old friends – Jude, Wendy with her ancient dog, and Adele – drive to the beach house of their beloved friend Sylvie, who has died. Their mission is to clean it out, as an act of kindness to Sylvie’s family. Sylvie has always oiled the joints of this four-way friendship: without her, there is constant friction, as the friends struggle to manage their grief and behave with grace. Ageing is very much under the microscope too. What I honour in Charlotte Wood is her honest, unflinching gaze. Relationships can be hard, and she is so skilled at unpicking them. I heard her say in an interview that she was constantly aware of the darkly comic aspects of these relationships: I too, was aware, and what I know is that her deep humanity is what makes this tragi-comedy work.


Two Old Men Dying by Tom Keneally. This one shows Keneally at his exploratory best. He’s someone who just loves to find things out! Combining that eternal curiosity with his well-honed storytelling, he runs two narratives side by side here. In contemporary times, we have two Australian cameramen going to Eritrea to document the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and to help an ophthalmologist bring his skills to a country that desperately needs them. The concurrent story occurs about 40,000 years ago, and concerns aboriginal communities living in what we now call the Willandra Lakes area (think Mungo Man); they do their living and dying, mating and hunting; and they construct law, philosophy and spirit wisdom to govern themselves by. Watch for some nice symbolism involving an opal.



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