shewhomust (shewhomust) wrote,
shewhomust
shewhomust

The place of chocolate in Australian literature

In the National Library
Among the papers of Banjo Patterson


In Gillian Polack's Fruitcake
News of this discovery was particularly timely, as I had just been reading Gillian Polack's Year of the Fruit Cake. Gillian is a friend, though a sadly distant friend these days (because a) she is in Australia) and b) she went missing from these parts during the Great Migration from LiveJournal): I would not have known she had published this book had I not read somewhere that it had won a prize. Deservedly; it's an exceptional book.

There are aliens on Earth: specifically, in Australia. And because these aliens experience gender as different phases of their lives, rather than as immutable expressions of identity, the human bodies they assume when they want to pass unnoticed among humans are those of perimenopausal women. What could possibly go wrong?

And yet something has evidently gone wrong, because alternate sections of the text are headed Notes towards an Understanding of the Problem. Many of these notes concern the conversations of five women who become lifelong friends, and who meet for chocolate, which doesn't seem particularly troublesome, but somehow these events are implicated in a disaster so unutterable it can only be referred to as 'fruitcake'. It is not a light-hearted book, but it is funny and it contains jokes (the subtitle is Aliens with Irony.) You have been warned.

It's also quite a demanding book: the narrative is not straightforward - the aliens don't do story, they do maths. To make things worse, the Observer's immerson in her human persona is faulty: her memory is not what it should be (but does she remember too much or too little?). And who is the woman whose quiet voice counts through the years of her life? But persevere, and all becomes clear, and the clarity is more satisfying for being earned.
This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.
Tags: books
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