Archive for May, 2010


“In The Mood”by Laura Bloom

this was a great bookgroup, but it was not a great book. Groupers said it was patchy, an easy read, an interesting idea, a good issue to raise, but no one said it was a good book. despite this, i say it was great bookgroup book because we literally talked about it for hours. i think that suggests it was a lot better than we gave it credit for, and that other readers might find something worthwhile within.

it is a second world war story. it is set in inner west sydney at the end of the war. he returns from the horrors of the pacific. she has to adjust to having her husband, now a silent damaged stranger, back in the house, and to being a stay at home house wife with some very big secrets. obviously this means the relationship is in need of drastic surgery and the author proceeds to give us the details in fully rendered 3d bloody psychological detail. amongst their problems is what we would now call his post traumatic stress, her loss of independence, and the fact that they both know the war is ended, they still have each other, and therefore they should be grateful and happy, but they arnt.

the key let down for bookgroupers was the question of believability. in the discussion groupers kept saying ‘why did she do that’, ‘would she really have done that’ etc. however, the response from others was ‘yeah i thought so, but i didnt understand why he did that’.

in hindsight you could argue that by eliciting these responses to characters actions the author has achieved the goal of all authors. she has created some fictional characters that are as incomprehensible, inconsistent, and incoherent as real people. maybe bookgroupers are demanding a higher level of rationality from these fictional characters than we expect from real people. nevertheless, this believability issue was the major negative and did reduce bookgroupers’ enjoyment of the novel.

however, it was also the talking point. we could have argued back and forth for hours about it – would she, shouldnt she, no he wouldnt have, why did he do that, i understood that perfectly, etc.

on the positive side some of us loved the detail about sydney in the war. others loved that it raised so vividly the issue of what life was like for the women, both during the war and immediately after. whilst we agreed these were good issues to raise, we disagreed on how believable the characters’ behaviours were.

in order to obtain a referees decision on this we are hoping to get our mums to read it. many of them lived through the period, and we are hoping that if they read it they will give us a verdict on the characters. we want to know if the characters portrayed were 21st century people, with 21st century politics, transported back to the forties, or whether 1940s men and women would really have thought and acted way these men and women did.

And the referee’s decision – Dave’s Mum speaks

I have to say it is not a book I would choose. It epitomises the modern marketing tool – sex sells.

The author seems to be grappling with a good idea for a story, but research and a lack of experience with various aspects of life left many bald segments.

Scene changes and flashbacks were too numerous and added confusion. It was almost as though the author was adding them to justify the actions of the character. eg. drank bottle of gin, went out on the town alone, pack rape. Would this activity be in character for how Katherine had been described earlier? But then at the end the reader is informed of a provocative swim in the nude, before the war.

The sketchy reference to family and friends I found very isolating and unreal. During the war, with rationing, people were aware that others might be in need. Pam seems to be the only one to supply the compassionate role.

The pregnancy discussion with the office girls seemed convincing except that it mainly took place in a cafe, v shortage of money. Pros and cons of abortion believable. Would the males in the office notice her changing figure? This reader was very surprised she stayed eight months. I found it unreal; though this was a first baby, the author describes very little about the labour, but much about about absent males.

Pam organises the adoption and follows the whereabouts of the baby. This seems to be stretching belief in the system; or was there information to which the reader was not privvy, ie Pam had already adopted a baby.

There were a few more improbables:

  • to remain living next door to her son, who was to be adopted by Pam
  • going to church two weeks after the baby’s birth – no mention of the baby
  • a sudden mention of Robert’s car, even though numerous references were made to the scarcity of funds
  • Robert’s re-enlistment ; ex-RAAF to Army. There existed a ‘class-distinction’ about joining the various arms of the forces. The army was the ‘lowest rung’.
  • The reader has been led to believe , Robert did not have ‘mates’ to whom to be loyal. Too late, he seems to have found one in Keith.


    May 9, 2010 at 11:47 am 1 comment


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