Susan Varga reviews 'The Happiness Glass' by Carol Lefevre

Susan Varga reviews 'The Happiness Glass' by Carol Lefevre

The Happiness Glass

by Carol Lefevre

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.

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Published in April 2019, no. 410

Susan Varga

Susan Varga writes novels, memoir and recently poetry. Her first book Heddy and Me won the Christina Stead Award. The award-winning Happy Families followed, then Broomtime, with Anne Coombs. Her last novel Headlong which was short-listed for the Barbara Jefferis Award and Rupture (2016), was commended for the Anne Elder Award for poetry.

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