Listening to Mondrian by Nadia Wheatley
Before I begin, I will own up. Ten years ago The Night Tolkien Died was on my reading list and I never got around to it. I had recently read a turgid, neverending novel by Nadia Wheatley and somehow could not motivate myself to tackle another huge tome. Had I actually read the book, then this review would probably be radically different.
As it is, I read this collection of short stories with great enjoyment. Each story had a clear narrative and engaging characters. The recurring theme for each is freedom. In each story the main character explores who they are and how they fit into their family, their community and their world. Freedom is not isolation.
Some of the stories are simple and straightforward, even to the point of predictable. “Mum’s Date” is a tale of a woman who has been out of the dating scene for many years and her teenage daughter who watches her prepare for a ‘big date’. As an adult, I could see the final outcome, but I doubt many kids would. And as an opposite point of view ‘Land/Scape’ looks at a father and son getting acquainted on a disasterous camping trip. The son has lots of preconcieved ideas about his father based on his profession, but all of these are questioned during the trip.
Probably what I liked most about the collection is the fact that each of the stories made sense. I am not fond of the current literary practice of minimalism in short story writing. Many modern short stories are so packed with symbolism and cut to such a short word limit that the story makes no sense at all on the first reading. Sorry, but I still read for entertainment and I believe many people do.
The one criticism that I do have is that most of this collection is not new. It seems to be that Nadia Wheatley is not writing very much currently (like in the last decade) so her publishers are rehashing old stories, putting them in a new cover with a new title and hoping to sell hundreds or even thousands of copies. It appears that one of the 8 stories in this release is even on its third publication. To my mind, this says rip-off.