Monday, 11 November 2013
The Paperbark Shoe - Goldie Goldbloom
Do you ever wonder about what is happening in another place whilst you know what is happening in yours? The Toads are a farming family in Australia, two parents, two kids and another on the way, fighting to make enough money to live on and feed themselves. Into their lives come two Italian prisoners of war, two of the 18,000 POWs sent to Australia between 1941 and 1947. Toad never joined up - he's too short. Gin, his wife is an albino, a trained concert pianist who never got to play for money, incarcerated in an asylum (where Toad first came across her) by her stepfather because, well...... read on and find out why. When the POWs become part of their lives, love and lust rears it's head, and for around a year, the air quivers with the longing, the wanting, the doing - and all the while Gin has to get on with life, Toad has to keep farming, and the two POWs have to keep working. Toad has a strange fantasy; he keeps ladies' corsets in the barn. Gin dreams of being truly loved, rather than taken from behind like an animal (and Toad see's no wrong in this - he's a farmer, this is what animals do). Whilst they are living their strange little life on the other side of the world, Italy is changing sides, the partisans are trying to fight off the Nazis, and there in the outback they hear so little of the the actuality. Sadly, neither does anyone else, for in the nearest township, gossip spreads like wildfire about Toad and the nasty little setup he allows out on his farm.
Reading this novel is rather like shutting your fingers in a drawer. You can see what's coming but you can't get your hand away in time. It's a beautifully imagined book, about a dreadful time in the World's history, written with a skill which makes you continue to turn a page for "just a little more".