Picador, $34.99 pb, 464 pp
The accordion, or squeezebox, takes its name from the German Akkordeon, meaning a ‘musical chorus’ or ‘chorus of sounds’. This box-shaped aerophonic instrument makes music when keys on its sides are pressed, one side mostly melody, the other chords. Squeezing the instrument and playing with both hands, the musician dexterously produces polyphonous music.
Iris Webber, the protagonist of Fiona Kelly McGregor’s eighth book and fourth novel, Iris, plays the accordion. Living in Sydney’s inner-city Surry Hills in the 1930s, Iris wrests independence and joy from this, as an alternative to being a ‘prossie’ and as respite from pervasive brutality. Though busking – ‘begging alms’ – is illegal, it’s a simpler way to make a living for Iris, enmeshed and dependent on a net of underworld unlawful activity.