Adding to my Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014, I’m very pleased to review a gorgeous book by fellow Bendigonean, Dianne Dempsey.
Girls in our town is the first novel from author Dianne Dempsey. Dempsey launched her debut novel this month at the Bendigo Writers Festival (2014) a very apt venue with the story based in Bendigo.
Dempsey knows her way around the literary world having worked as a freelance journalist, scriptwriter and book reviewer for a number of Australian newspapers and journals so it’s no surprise that Girls in Our Town is a carefully crafted work.
The reader follows the young life of twenty year old Sheba who struggles with her place in life as she drags about with her the shadow of a tragic car accident that tugs on her guilt and forms her view of the world:
I remember one day waking up from the fug to see Sally’s mother standing at the end of my bed in the hospital room. I thought she’d be nice to me, but I quickly realised she was very angry. She just wanted to tell me how much she blamed me for the accident…One of the nurses heard screaming and came rushing into the room to find Sally’s mum pummelling my stitched up face with her fists.
The delicate and deliberate prose is deceptively simple, and has the knack of being at once heart-breaking and funny. Sheba’s beautifully portrayed troubled younger sister Brigid, who is bullied unmercifully, is the source of many hilarious and sweet moments. Sheba’s admirable attitude to their equally troubled alcoholic mother Clover, adds lightness to the darker events in the story that might otherwise make for a deeply sorrowful read.
I should add that she spoke with a lisp which was why she called me Theba instead of Sheba…Clover never really did get round to organising the orthodontith.
For a book that touches on death, bullying, rape, alcoholism, child neglect and much more, it’s a testament to Dempsey’s talent that it is also adorable and sweet, you can’t help but fall in love with the family of Girls in our Town.