Regular readers of this blog will now that I’m a big fan of Thea Astley. One of her last novels (novella, actually) was Coda, a biting story about elderly widow Kathleen who is losing her memory but struggling, with little help from her self-centred children, to maintain some independence and, more, dignity. The book is full of wonderful acerbic insights that make you smile while hitting you in the guts at the same time. The novel opens with ‘”I’m losing my nouns”, she admitted.’
Here are some other excerpts:
… her oddities were increasing with age, her indifference to convention running counter to the refinements and pretentiousness of her children’s lifestyles.
… Public Service pension that drizzled brief fortnightly puddles of support into her bank account like a rusty tap.
She was scrabbling and rooting about for words in that old handbag of her years.
Astley’s early novels were exuberant, expansive in their imagery – though they too had satirical bite – but her last novels, particularly Coda and Drylands, were tighter, more spare. I wonder if that has something to do with her own aging, with no long having the gift of time?
Alice Joyce in her Booklist review, on Amazon, says “Astley’s high regard in her native Australia is understandable after reading this taut, compelling new novel about a strong-minded widow not yet ready to concede defeat and bow to the realities of her failing memory and the physical limitations of an aging body”. It is truly unfortunate that Thea Astley is not well-known outside Australia.