Tessa Lunney reviews 'A Hundred Small Lessons' by Ashley Hay

Tessa Lunney reviews 'A Hundred Small Lessons' by Ashley Hay

A Hundred Small Lessons

by Ashley Hay

Allen & Unwin $32.99 pb, 384 pp, 9781760293208

Tessa Lunney

Tessa Lunney

Tessa Lunney is a novelist, poet, and academic. In 2016 she won the Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize and the


A Hundred Small Lessons holds powerful truths, simply told. It is a story of parenthood and place, where small domestic moments, rather than dramatic public displays, are the links between people, the present and the past. Each moment occurs in and around a familiar, ordinary Brisbane house, and the book begins when Elsie, the nonagenarian resident, leaves this house for a nursing home, and Lucy and Ben move in with their son Tom.

To summarise the plot would not explain this novel. One domestic moment is layered on the next, exploring the ways in which parenthood works on identity through time – that parenthood is not created through the drama of birth but through the small domestic actions of daily care. That a crow dies, that a phone is lost, is not the point. How Lucy and Elsie, and their respective husbands Ben and Clem, choose to behave in these moments, is. These moments are woven through the book’s different time periods, of Lucy’s ‘now’ and Elsie’s ‘then’.

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Published in May 2017, no. 391

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