Daniel Juckes reviews 'Things My Mother Taught Me' by Claire Halliday

Daniel Juckes reviews 'Things My Mother Taught Me' by Claire Halliday

Things My Mother Taught Me

by Claire Halliday

Echo Publishing $29.95, 256 pp, 9781760069995

Claire Halliday's Things My Mother Taught Me opens thus: 'History is a personal thing.' But in this book – a collection of interviews with famous Australians about their mothers – each personal story feels too similar, shorn of the thing which makes memoir so particular and powerful: the voice of the individual. The result is lacklustre; trapped somewhere between essay and interview. The effect is hard to describe, akin to the anonymity of ghost-written magazine articles. There are bursts of pleasure and skerricks of momentum, but too often something halts the prose. This could be a sudden change in narrative direction, conceivably impelled by an excluded question. One example, from the interview with Lawrence Mooney, is the way in which four entirely different subjects are broached on the same page: Mooney's grandmother's death; significant Australians sharing his mother's name; a stereotype of the sexes; and the secretive nature of the comedian's parents. Another result of that half-interview, half-essay constriction is cautious writing.

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Daniel Juckes

Daniel Juckes

Daniel Juckes is a writer and academic from Perth, Western Australia. He works at Curtin University, and his research and writing interests include the poetics of prose and the representation of the past. His writing has been published in journals such as Axon, M/C Journal, TEXT, Westerly, and Life Writing.