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

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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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 Orlando Prize for Short Fiction.She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the Western Sydney University that explored silence in Australian war fiction. Her poetry, short fiction, and reviews have been published in Southerly, Cordite, Mascara Literary Review and Contrapasso, among others. She works as the Editorial Assistant for Southerly and as a casual academic at universities around Sydney.

Published in May 2017, no. 391

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