HONOUR & OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN by Helen Garner

HONOUR & OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two novellas--one of which, Other People's Children, closely resembles this Australian writer's first novel, Monkey Grip (p. 519). Again the background is hangloose, dreary, quasi-commune living; again the approach is spare, stark, with some mirthless humor. And the closely observed story--about the growing tension between two once-friendly women sharing a house (one working-class, with children; one a single school-teacher), about the offbeat, near-precious romance between two aging commune-dwellers who've become oddly attached to ""other people's children""--is again more often drably clinical than involving. Still, there are patches of well-caught dialogue here, some leanly expressive moments (a harmonica-player ""was peeling off high, sheer ribbons of sound""). And the much shorter of the two pieces, Honour, shows Garner in a far more empathic vein--as Kathleen, a likable woman (comic, stoical, impulsive), tries hard to behave with ""honour"" when her long-estranged husband finally asks for a divorce, moves in with a new bride-to-be. . . and also takes amicable possession of their young daughter (who'd like everyone to live together). Though lacking in narrative shape and occasionally overwritten (""Some half-gagged splinter-self in the depths was twisting in protest: what about me?""), these vignettes of disordered domestic life are flickeringly affecting. And there's a convincing sketch of a tendily open yet old-fashionedly strained mother/ daughter relationship. All in all: promising glimpses--more so than in Monkey Grip--of a limited but tangible talent.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1981
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row