Every morning, Amy watched the elderly man who was clearly love struck by the mannequin bride in the window. As tears rolled down his weathered cheeks, Amy wished she was more like her mum with a knack of talking to strangers and easing grief. Instead, she observed, paralyzed… a mannequin herself.
“How much for the woman in the window?” He asked.
“She’s not for sale. Only the dress.”
“When I saw my Audrey walking down the aisle, I was the happiest man alive. Now, there’s just me.”
Somehow, she’d have to explain the missing mannequin to the boss.
I am thinking this story would suit a longer format…even to just 500 words. I see the occasional wedding dress in the opportunity or charity shops and it always makes me wonder how they got there. Why did someone pass them on? Naturally, the divorce rate doesn’t help, but if I was divorced, would I part with the dress even though I’d parted with the groom? An interesting question. Any thoughts?
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!
Meanwhile, I’m having quite a momentous week. I signed up for and have started an online freelance journalism course on Monday and tonight I was elected Vice President of the school Parents & Citizens Association (P& C). I’m not sure where all this is heading but I’m certainly extending myself.
If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.
Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.
So, what was so good about it?
For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.
Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.
I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.
Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.
It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.
All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.
I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.
However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…
Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.“
However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.
Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.
So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.
While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.
However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.
So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.
As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.
Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.
PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.
Don’t you just love family stories?!!
Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.
Waking me up from a trance, my husband asked: “What did that poor pen ever do to you? You’ve not only chewed its head off, you’re lucky you didn’t break a tooth.”
Obviously, pen chewing is a revolting, potentially hazardous, bad habit. I’m not stupid. However, what my husband doesn’t appreciate, is the power of pen chewing to shift even the most resistant writer’s block. Indeed, it has what I privately refer to as a “laxative effect”. The only downside, is trying to catch all the words before they run away, and holding my hand wasn’t going to help.
Fred had never seen a chess set made of cheese before, and couldn’t resist chomping into the rook breaking at least two teeth and his pride.
“Oh, Fred!” gushed his wife. “I leave you for a minute, and more trouble. That’s going to be another couple of crowns. I’ll call the dentist.”
Yesterday, he’d overheard her talking about a babysitter, even sending him to a home. Darn this blasted whatsy-me-call-it! He was gunna shoot it.
Mary gave him another orange juice. The blur only deteriorated, and he no longer cared what it was called. Just as long as it hurried up.
Ooops! Starting to look like one cupcake was an elegant sufficiency, and two was let’s just say a bit of a mistake. Perhaps, you’d like to indulge. I was reading about cupcakes on a blog last week, which gave me uncontrolled cravings and I whipped up a batch of plain ones with butter icing a few days ago. Tonight, I experimented a bit and swirled strawberry jam through one half, and crunchy peanut butter and chocolate chips through the rest. Butter icing on top…yum! Great with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever else tickles your fancy.
How had your week been?
Yesterday, was our 17th Wedding Anniversary. We went out for lunch at Eat Street on the Gosford Waterfront where I had fish tacos and Geoff has nachos. These were followed by coffee and a brownie each. We also went to the nursery and bought a yellow rose bush for our anniversary. Yellow roses are more my Dad’s colour and he usually gives mum yellow roses for their wedding anniversary. Yellow roses traditionally symbolise jealousy. However, in our case, we already have a beautiful and very resilient red climbing rose so we wanted something different.
Our rose bush is as pretty as a picture. Please rose bush do not die!
Well, being Spring over here, we couldn’t stop at buying just the rose bush. We would two very small azalias to go with the larger azalia that I’d bought Geoff for Father’s Day. We also bought a pink cineraria and a rosemary bush. We we brought them home, our son called out: “Plant killer”. So, in an effort to show that I’ve at least somewhat reformed, we got stuck into the garden ripping out overgrown grass and weeds and digging holes. Geoff has also done his bit and reinstalled our watering system a few months ago. There is hope.
By the way, I’m waiting patiently for our daffodils to flower. One flowered a few weeks ago and I fully meant to take a photo, but it looked a bit unfortunate locked up in the greenhouse when it should’ve been free. I blame three dogs for its unfortunate imprisonment. They dug up our blueberry bush and crewed it up…grr!
Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.
While we’re chatting here, I’ve been reminded about my violin. I’ve been working on a short story called “The Violinist” based on my experiences of learning the violin as an adult. I had a bit of a light bulb moment this week, where I actually realized that if I practiced my violin for 30 minutes a day like I was supposed to. Indeed, that’s the very least amount of practice you can do and really expect to make any headway. I should really be doing an hour, which could explain why I can’t even manage to get any practice done at all. If I just settled for doing 5 minutes practice, it would extend out to 15 minutes, maybe even half an hour. Anyway, getting back to my light bulb moment, I realized that if I just did my practice, I probably wouldn’t be wrestling with my violin at all. That my bow wouldn’t be so tempted to wander off diagnonally across the strings and my fingers wouldn’t be so stiff. They’d be well-oiled and they’d actually know their way around the strings instead of feeling lost. No doubt, you’re probably wondering how something that obvious could count as a light bulb moment. Indeed, you’re probably thinking I might need to start looking for a new light bulb, if that’s the best I can come up with. However, there are so many competing distractions, and my violin isn’t at the top of the list. It’s something I love, but I see it more in terms of creative cross-training rather than something I’m ever going to master.
I was quite pleased with the flash fiction I wrote this week for Friday Fictioneers: Dancing With Apollo. I also wrote a post for Thursday Doors and this week I featured some of the miniature embassy buildings at Tazmazia. They’re quite amazing and I highly recommend you check them out in person, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the photographs. I’m really busting to get back to Tassie now. It’s our home away from home.
Well, I hope you’ve had a great week and I’m looking forward to hearing from you and catching up on your news as well.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us.
PS I thought I’d give you a laugh and post this photo of me taking photos at our wedding. You can’t hold a passionate photographer down. One of my friends said she was surprised I didn’t have a camera hidden in my bouquet.
The Photographer Bride: taking photos at my own wedding. Totally incorrigible.
“Don’t you love it, honey?” Misty beamed, almost bouncing out of her skimpy gym gear.
“What the hell is it?” Bruce groaned. A statue? Gym equipment? Dumbstruck, then he saw the price tag. Blimey! “She’s sending me broke. Now, I can’t even afford a good Chardonnay.
Tomorrow, he was having coffee with his ex-wife. At least, they had an understanding. She’s wasn’t interested in sex, and he had the emotional depth of a “dried lentil”. Even if he couldn’t go back, he wasn’t going forward.
There were worse things than being alone. Besides, he could always get a dog.