ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- This is a book that will be on award lists! I read this is one sitting, because I was transfixed by the story, the writing and the originality of narration. It is set over the course of the performance of a Beckett play (never named, but "Happy Days") in Melbourne at the height of bushfire season. Margot is a successful academic on the verge of forced retirement and a husband who is sinking into dementia and violence. Ivy is a philanthropic donor to the theatre company and a former student of Margot's. Summer works as an usher in the theatre. They all are nursing griefs and anxieties, heightened by the summer heat and impending threat of the fires on the city's outskirts. As the play progresses, each woman muses, worries, frets and remembers the past, as they take in the startling spectacle unfolding on the stage. At the centre of the book, in the interval, the novel turns into a playscript - a device that works extraordinarily well! Very finely written, and very highly recommended! Lindy
A SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 'MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2021' 'Witty, affecting, brilliantly wise and original.' Gail Jones, author of A GUIDE TO BERLIN, THE DEATH OF NOAH GLASS and OUR SHADOWS 'A potent meditation on the intensity of women's lives.' Charlotte Wood, author of THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS and THE WEEKEND The false cold of the theatre makes it hard to imagine the heavy wind outside in the real world, the ash air pressing onto the city from the nearby hills where bushfires are taking hold.
The house lights lower.
The auditorium feels hopeful in the darkness.
As bushfires rage outside the city, three women watch a performance of a Beckett play.
Margot is a successful professor, preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her ailing husband. Ivy is a philanthropist with a troubled past, distracted by the snoring man beside her. Summer is a young theatre usher, anxious about the safety of her girlfriend in the fire zone.
As the performance unfolds, so does each woman's story. By the time the curtain falls, they will all have a new understanding of the world beyond the stage.
'Claire Thomas writes with a sure eye and knowing heart.' Tony Birch, author of BLOOD, GHOST RIVER and THE WHITE GIRL 'I read from start to finish almost without looking up.' Clare Bowditch, author of YOUR OWN KIND OF GIRL 'Read it as soon as you possibly can.' Emily Bitto, author of THE STRAYS 'I can't recommend this too highly.' Patrick Gale, author of A PLACE CALLED WINTER and TAKE NOTHING WITH YOU 'Frequently funny, often profound, The Performance is an unmissable show.' Emma Stonex, author of THE LAMPLIGHTERS
Claire Thomas is a Melbourne writer. Her acclaimed first novel was Fugitive Blue, which won the Dobbie Award for women writers, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Claire holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne where she teaches literary studies and creative writing.
Graceful, complex, intriguing. I read from start to finish almost without looking up, and suspect I will be carrying these characters with me for some time yet. A brilliant contribution to Australian fiction. Bravo, Claire Thomas. - Clare Bowditch, Aria-award-winning musician, actor, radio presenter and author of YOUR OWN KIND OF GIRL This extraordinary novel contains multitudes. Grounded in the inner lives of three women, it expands to encompass so much that is of fundamental importance to our times, and indeed to the human condition itself. Profound, funny, full of empathy and oh-so-smart, this is a work of art in the truest sense. Read it as soon as you possibly can. - Emily Bitto, author of THE STRAYS An enigmatic, elegant and assured novel that explores the power of art in revealing us to ourselves. - Charlotte Wood, author of THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS and THE WEEKEND