Saturday, July 26, 2014

THE GOOD PARENTS by Joan London (fic)

I wanted to like this book more than I did as it received good reviews when it was published. Joan London is a fine writer and her descriptions of rural Australia ring true.  My problem is with the story which though at times interesting, is scattered and delves into the lives of too many characters.  London begins the tale with Maya de Jong an 18 year old who leaves  her small Western Australian town and travels to Melbourne for a taste of the city life. There she finds secretarial work in a small business.  One day she goes off with her boss, Maynard Flynn, and that is the last we hear of her until the end of the story.

In Melbourne, Maya finds digs with an experimental film maker named Cecile.  Her parents Jacob and Toni arrive to visit her and find that she has disappeared.  Why they are called the good parents, baffles me.  Just like Maya, they are passive people.  They make some effort with half-hearted inquiries, but mostly they settle in Cecile's house, and try to find themselves.  Now the story turns to their backgrounds and their youth in the 70s takes center stage.  The story weaves back and forth between Toni's romance with a gangster and Jacob's hippie wanderings.  Thrown in the middle of this is Cecile's story as well as that of Jacob's sister.  Meanwhile these good parents have left Maya's young teenage brother, Magnus, alone to fend for himself in an empty house.  London moves back and forth with these stories.  When Jacob's sister arrives to take care of their Magnus, Toni and Jacob seem strangely uninvolved and thankless.  The reader learns the background of each new character who is introduced in the story.  I, for one, kept wondering what is going on with Maya.

The theme running through the book is that of young adults finding themselves and learning to express themselves and find a niche of acceptance.  This is where the backgrounds of the various characters come into play and allows the reader to compare and contrast the way the characters have handled themselves.  The problem for me is that with the exception of the Jacob's sister and Toni's racketeering boyfriend, the characters we meet are a lethargic bunch.

London's writing and descriptions are lyrical and Toni's story is interesting, though the ending of the book was lackluster, since I could not find myself engrossed or caring about the characters.  I was hoping for better.

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