Archive for June, 2011


A englishman, a gay guy and two lesbians head off to the blue mountains to stay in an old house for a month or two. What do they end up thinking and talking about do you think? sex and art is kind of obvious, but wallpaper?

This book is like a lot of recent books in some ways, it talks about family, childhood, sex, growing up, and culture through the eyes and words of four different characters.

However, it is completely unlike a lot of recent books in that the characters are all much the same, the writing style is old fashioned stream of consciousness, and the unifying theme is wallpaper.

The characters are all 30 something academics in the 1990s, with the insecurities and ambitions you would expect for their generation and profession. English, french, australian, but all desperately drawing long cultural bows to argue that the history of wallpaper design reflects various cultural currents over recent centuries in their respective nations.

While the writing was old fashioned stream of consciousness in style, it was punctuated with a full stop after every phrase. this meant there was hardly one proper sentence per page, but it was very readable, very clear, and quite vivid both in physical and emotional descriptions. none of which can be said about traditional stream of consciousness writing.

unfortunately the consciousness of all four characters wasnt that interesting, and the idea of wallpaper design a reflection or symbol of societies’ evolution, either wasnt sufficiently developed or just didnt stand up enough to hold my interest.

i think i could see the idea for a good book hidden somewhere. a bunch of young historians go to an old house owned by one family for generations, as they peel of each layer of paper, another twist in the tale of the family is revealed, the relationships between the characters develops, and the connections between their experiences and those of the house’s family are drawn out.

this book didnt go there. instead we got lots of stuff about florence broadhurst the controversial 20th century australian wallpaper designer, reveillion, a french late 18th century manufacturer, and ruskin, the famous 19th century english art critic. these are all fascinating people, but they appear to have had nothing to do with the house in the blue mountains, its family, or the family of the main character, addy. so i dont know why half the book was devoted to them.

the start of the book was promising. it outlined the meeting of addy’s parents – lillian and francis, their romance, move to the blue mountains and start of the wallpaper business. all this was vivid, believable and sufficiently colourful and fast paced.

but as the book went on the writing was more and more just a description of the thoughts in the heads of our four young historians. unfortunately their thoughts were not that interesting.

apart from lillian and francis i also liked that it took the whole book for addy to get together with the french woman. this was a welcome relief from the love at first sight, then jump in to bed, approach of many books. i also liked the descriptions of familiar sydney and the blue mountains landscapes, and the writing at times did work well, but it wasnt enough to make it worth the effort, for me at any rate.

some bookgroupers were more positive and found it worthwhile, but others were lukewarm. readers with an interest in wallpaper will love it so i recommend such readers checkout the authors website and wallpaper links.


June 16, 2011 at 11:30 am Leave a comment


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