The Good Parents – Joan London


Oh Joan London – please write another book soon!

I picked up Australian author Joan London’s first novel Gilgamesh a few weeks ago and was captivated by the beautiful, gentle writing. The writing is so lovely that I feel she could write about anything and make it meaningful. This style is the same in The Good Parents, another story where the journey of the characters is the primary focus, in a way these two novels have almost seemed like comfort reads because the characters are moving towards a way of living that is right for them rather than ‘good’ in the eyes of others. In fact the concept of ‘good’ is crucial – balancing what each individual desires with the need to be seen to be good people, good parents, good daughters, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives.

He was just about ready, Jacob thought, as soon as Magnus finished school, to drop the parental role altogether, and reveal himself, his doubts, his truth, his past. Along with his fear that he was going to die……was the fear of dying without ever having been able to give expression to what it meant to live”

Anyway, let me tell you about the story because there is actually a plot, a gently flowing plot that looks at the lives of three generations of families, the choices they’ve made and the patterns that repeat themelves. The story has a cyclical feel to it. The characters are ordinary people and while the things that happen to them are perhaps not everyday, they are things that could happen to any of us.

Maya is 18 years old and has moved from a small town to the bright lights of Melbourne. She has found a flat sharing with the creative Cecile and a quiet office job. She has also fallen into an affair with her boss Maynard. When her parents Toni and Jacob arrive in Melbourne for a planned visit, they find Maya gone, disappeared with no explanation.

Although she is pivotal to the story, I was suprised to find that Maya’s disappearance was not the primary focus of the book. Joan London skillfully handles this in a way that makes it acceptable that it is somewhat in the background. Instead her disappearance is a catalyst for Toni and Jacob to rediscover aspects of themselves they had forgotten. The change in circumstances also offers new choices to the family left behind in Warton (Jacob’s sister Kitty returns after many years to take care of her nephew while his parents wait in Melbourne for news of Maya.) The characters reflect on their individual backgrounds and histories and their lives together, how they came to be where they are and what they want to do in the future.

It is not an an open and shut type of book, things are not all tidied up as the end approaches, the cyclical feel of it all remains but its a satisying place to finish off, a feeling that things will be resolved one way or the other.

I don’t usually rate the books I read because I’m not sure how to do it in a helpful way and I feel sure I’d be constantly changing my mind! This one though would be easy to rate – I would give it a subjective 4.5 stars.

2008, 349 pages

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6 responses to “The Good Parents – Joan London

  1. Hear, hear, I’ll second that motion. I don’t understand why this book received so little recognition: it won the NSW Premier’s Prize but not shortlisted anywhere else very much as far as I know. (Though I ‘ve love to be told I’m wrong about that!)
    I thought The Good Parents was a terrific book and can’t wait for the next one.
    My review is here http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/the-good-parents-by-joan-london/
    Cheers
    Lisa

  2. Lisa – I knew it would be good when I saw Joan London on your list of ANZ must reads! It’s odd isn’t it how some books get the recognition and others which are just as good or better, don’t. Thanks for the link to your review – I’m coming over to have a look 0:)

  3. I must read Joan London. In the United States, there was a famous TV personality called Joan Lunden, so I suppose there is a similar name mix-up for Joan London as there was for English writer Elizabeth Taylor.

    • Tony – is that right, I hadn’t heard of Joan Lunden but I can only imagine the number of times Elizabeth Taylor the author must have been asked about her famous name.

      Yes you must try Joan London and I must try Elizabeth Taylor – still haven’t done that despite the positive things I’ve read about her in blogland and also the large number of her books my library stocks – I have no excuse!

  4. Tony above has just pointed me to your review. Great one Tracey. I think she’s an excellent writer too … And your review captures it very wel

    • Whisperinggums – thank you and for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you like her too – just hope she has another book in the pipeline..

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