Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver

November 2009     Web Edition     Issue #3

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A Woman of Air

Margaret Packham Hargrave

Vintage/Random House Australia $14.95

Australian—198 pages

You must step into Daphne’s world. Told from the point of view of her last days, this graceful creature spins the tale of her life amidst eddying dust motes and black & white memories that are from time to time, splashed with dazzling color.

It’s tough to find this book here in the States, but an internet search will turn up copies around the world so do go look for it. Ms. Hargrave’s novel is the recipient of the Inaugural Elle/Random House Fiction Prize and one can understand why. She weaves a tapestry one steps into and settles down on the porch on a summer afternoon to watch the lazy day unwind. All is quite soft-spoken and pleasant and dear, but with an undercurrent of life’s tragic reality throughout, so there is never a question that this might be a fantasy novel.

Early to mid 20th century Australia is the setting of this novel. What a history lesson I’ve received, without having to take notes or attend class! A terrific way to learn lesser known details about a country. Our heroine is bound and determined to be a dazzling star on stage or in pictures—which ever biz she is discovered by first will do just fine. Not quite the thing apparently, according to her family, and the pressures of life—not to mention epilepsy—keep her down more often than not. Her life is peopled with the extraordinary, pathetic, dear and sad just like the rest of us. And as we all do, Daphne dreams. As she lies dying however, her dreams and reality become indistinguishable and we are left with a complete celebration of a life lived to the absolute fullest—even if part of it is purely fancy. What a wonderful film this would make. Are you listening Hollywood?

—Jessie Lilley