Marion Halligan

Marion Halligan is a prolific writer, and this is not the first time I have reviewed one of her books. Once, when she branched out into the genre of lightweight crime – The Apricot Colonel (2006) and Murder on the Apricot Coast (2008) – I commented on the problem faced by Cassandra, the novel’s narrator. An editor-turned-author, she turns out boo ...

This is a book of rather brief short stories, few of which exceed a dozen pages. This leaves room for nineteen stories in a fairly short collection. Most of them read easily, each one effortlessly displacing its predecessor. There are, of course, standouts, to which I shall return, but the most striking overall characteristic is the distinctively personalised tone. The wide variety of personae ...

The Point by Marion Halligan

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April 2003, no. 250

Marion Halligan’s latest novel should be a success. It is a continuation and concentration of themes, characters, and settings that have consistently engaged her in a considerable body of work. The Point is full of Halligan favourites: food, art, love, literature, hubris, Canberra, Séverac, and the Spensers. It is a novel with currency, exploring the IT industry, the business of food, and the perceived distance between those with and those without. Halligan has a reputation as an intense and original writer, but The Point is a disappointing novel.

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I was tempted to do a wicked thing when writing about Between the Fish and the Mud Cake: to take its subjects and describe my experiences with them. So I would tell you all about my lunch with Georges Perec at the French Embassy in Canberra. What he said, and I said, and the ambassador said, and what I made of it all. The book mentions touring with Carmel Bird; I could describe my friendship with her. But Andrew Riemer is not that sort of reviewer, and his book is much too interesting in itself to be one-upped like that.

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Ever since I heard Amy Witting speak at the recent Melbourne Festival, I have been thinking about her name, which is a chosen not a given name and therefore may be considered for its meanings. It occurred to me that there may be conscious artistry in her name as in her work. Amy: that must mean love. And Witting will be knowledge, awareness. The two an expression of the novelist’s desire. Her new book has both in good measure. Even more strongly here than in her earlier work, I have the sense of Witting’s voice speaking to us. Of course her medium is the characters through whom her plot works itself out, and the wise things spoken are the words of these characters, but I had an intimate sense of their being hers as well. You could extract her bons mots, her reflections, her epigrams, and make a nice little volume of the wit arid wisdom of Amy Witting. But of course you would lose a part of their power, and all the poignancy that context gives.

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Marion Halligan’s new novel has as its centrepiece, shiny and assertive, flagged by its title, a dress made with loving care but, nonetheless, improvised just so that the fabric will go far enough. A dress that Molly Pellerin wears to a party at the laundry where she works, an event that becomes a defining moment in her life, the dress a legacy, offering an image of Molly as dazzling, beautiful, and loved. The photograph sustains her memory, potently, permanently.

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Until I reviewed Marion Halligans novel Lovers’ Knots, I didn’t really know much about what a lover’s knot was. And now I know more than I used to know about the word ‘cockle’.

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Wishbone by Marion Halligan

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October 1994, no. 165

These are the opening lines of Wishbone. Already I know that this is a book I want to continue reading, and not just for the promise of sex, romance, and intrigue. I am also attracted by the ‘difficulty’ of knowing just what tone is being taken here, and just who is speaking to me in these words. As well as being thrown immediately into the story, the reader is confronted with this tone – analytic, cool, amused? There is the holding-back of both information and conclusions. There is the emphasis on bodies, their awkwardness, the space they take up, their economics … and later the words and wishes they produce. Knight will say to his lover, Emmanuelle, ‘I thought we could have an affair and just be bodies.’

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Book reviewing. I’ve done quite a lot of it. I regard it as my trade and a profession, one to be proud of, with principles and rules and responsibilities, to be practised ethically and with generosity. And not gloomily, nor theoretically, for I write for readers, not scholars.

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What do you do when you wake up in the morning and feel the shifty shadow of God lurking? You stay in bed, and hope that it’ll pass you by, that’s what. Sam Pickles doesn’t. He goes to work and loses his fingers in a winch: when he takes his glove off, they ‘fell to the deck and danced like half a pound of ...

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