by Kate Grenville
University of Queensland Press, 170 pp, $19.95 hb
Dreamhouse, written before the wonderful Lilian’s Story (1984 Vogel winner), was the Vogel runner-up in 1983. Kate Grenville’s writing in this novel is clear-headed, strong, both witty and humorous, and above all lifts the imagination high. Dreamhouse wins my ‘Chortle, Gasp’ Prize for black comedy incorporating a design award for ‘best romantic fiction parody’ (it could have been called A Summer in Tuscany). It’s a darkly delightful book to read. Subversion of romantic expectations is immediate, ingenious, and horribly funny. Louise Dufrey is one half of an unlovely couple whose marriage looks perfect but is actually defunct. As narrator, Louise gets straight to the point:
My husband was a vain man with a thick orange moustache who loved to look at his beautiful wife, slim like a model and striking on the streets ... As for myself. I was a woman full of greed: my husband, whose name was Reynold, was soon to be a professor with an income and a position, while I could never be anything wealthier than a striking secretary with lovely legs and little future.