The Happiness Glass
Spinifex Press, $24.95 pb, 124 pp, 9781925581638
Carol Lefevre is the author of two novels and a non-fiction book on Adelaide, all well received and awarded. Yet she is not as well known in her own country as she should be, having spent decades in England. I hope The Happiness Glass will remedy that.
This is a quietly powerful book; part memoir, part linked short stories. Lefevre’s own voice is shared with the fictional Lily Brennan, her alter ego, moving forwards and backwards to her own life, allowing the flexibility and relative anonymity of fiction. This makes for delicious reading, as the different forms expand, reflect, and hide each other.
The book is in five parts, each with a ‘true’ memoir/essay, followed by Lily Brennan’s story and sometimes a more free-floating story, tied back subtly to the main narrative.
What a trajectory it is, singular and universal. Lefevre starts school in 1956 in hot, desolate Wilcannia. The family moves often, to Broken Hill, then high school in Mount Gambier, where Lefevre is forced into the typing stream, her dreams of learning Latin and French crushed. Post-school: a lonely, romantic period in New Zealand, a stint as a barmaid in South Africa, and a job as a nanny in England. She settles into a happy marriage, but soon a harrowing battle with infertility begins. Six years later, the couple adopts a neglected eleven-month-old baby girl from Chile. After years of joyful parenthood, the seemingly happy child begins to move beyond her parents’ reach and eventually severs ties with them.