ANNIE MAGDALENE by Barbara Hanrahan


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This fictional life-memoir of a sweet-tempered, working-class Australian woman, fated to waste that sweetness on a generally uncaring or certainly unaware community, is curiously touching. For all of the author's intent to enclose the life of Annie Magadalene in a feminist hortatorial framework, the exact dimensions of the space Annie makes for herself in her little world come through sharp and clear, and she becomes for the reader increasingly real and familiar. Hanrahan handily reconstructs the vivid intake in a child's world of colors and movement and people as Anne remembers her childhood. Dad (who had a good factory job) was ""a very fussy man with a box to put his hats in""; Mum (born in South Africa) ""was a lady. . .it was her great habit calling people dear."" She remembers neighbors and shops and celebrations, like the end of WW I. Then there were the adolescent years when, at 14, Annie took up her ""profession""--sewing--starting as a button sewer, then working on increasingly complex processes in a factory and in a department store, even setting up a dressmaking business at home. There were the dancing years of her 20s--and the handmade gowns of georgette, the silver shoes. Annie loved to dance and she had enough ""electricity"" in her body, but fancy getting married and having a mob of kids! Reticent in matters of marriage and sex (she guessed she was undersexed like brother Tom), Annie saves her real excitement--and pride--for her work: ""You had to be careful with velvet. . .organdie and georgette were tricky. . .tulle and satin were very slippery."" Marriage? ""I was very independent and did what I wanted."" Joy was having a laugh with the girls at work--she gave grand parties for them until Tom (whose wife left him) came to live with her after Mum and Dad died, and spoiled things. She'll tend Tom as she did Mum and Dad in their last days. A giving woman--she gave away handmade dresses, eggs from her beloved ""fowl,"" care and shelter--her life winds down into an old age of pain and a succession of deaths but ""life was still sweet."" More successful in effect than her Dove (1983), this Australian author's clear, winnowed style neatly portrays the modest, unexamined life that was, to Annie at least, worth living.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1985
Publisher: Beaufort