An Unremarkable Life?

December 16, 2011

 Rosalie Ham, There Should Be More Dancing, North Sydney: Vintage, 2011

Reviewed by Mike Heald

Rosalie Ham’s third novel, There Should Be More Dancing, is centred upon an almost eighty-year-old woman, Margery Blandon, who has taken herself to the very top floor of a Melbourne hotel in order to throw herself to her death. The action of the novel proceeds as a series of flashbacks, which reveal how Margery has come to this suicidal position. Although the novel has a suburban setting, therefore, the characters and narrative are framed by a situation which is anything but mundane.

One of my strongest impressions from reading this novel is one of a deep humaneness. It struck me that the years writers spend developing their craft enable them to embody issues in the specifics of our lived experience, so that one encounters, in a novel, not abstract argument, but manifest significance. Rosalie Ham’s skill allows her to present a world which is both faithful to the reality with which we are familiar, yet also expressive. This takes her work beyond mere mirroring, and makes it an achievement which is both aesthetic, and ethical: an accomplishment of the soul, if you like. When we feel ourselves, for example, finding sympathy for Judith, Marge’s rather devious, manipulative daughter, it is a moment in which our generosity is, if not extended by art, then at least exercised, strengthened.

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