Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Laughing Through the Tears

In Moral Danger by Barbara Biggs

Genre; Autobiography
Publisher; Micklind Enterprises/NSW/2006
Pages; 345

Plot; You may remember Barbara Biggs as the woman who threw unionism into chaos in the late 70's when she was the first to receive the conscientious objection exemption certificate allowing her to refuse union membership, but what you may not know is the incredible life she led before then. One of six children, and with a Mother travelling around the countryside, Biggs spent her earlier years in a home for wayward girls before running away at the age of thirteen and ending up living with her Grandmother.

At the age of fourteen Biggs is sold, by her Grandmother, to one of Australia's most successful criminal barristers to be a live in nanny, but gets more that what was bargained for which leads her to a psychiatric facility by the age of sixteen. From there, Biggs dabbles in world travel, escaping Cambodia as it falls to the Khmer Rouge and learning the arts of being a prostitute in Japan before heading back to Australia to study and work. It is her job on the Tram and her refusal to join the union (merely because she doesn't want to have to pay the fees for a club she doesn't want to be a member of) that then shoots her into the media's eye.

My Thoughts; The best thing about this book is Barbara Biggs' ability to turn what should be a confronting issue into something you can laugh about. The light-hearted, and almost comical, way that Biggs describes her life's events allows the reader to laugh through their tears.

"Truth" is the first word that really springs to my mind when thinking about In Moral Danger. Biggs is extremely open about her experiences and, best of all, shows no shame for what others may find obscene, indelicate or unchaste. Biggs conveys her experiences and actions as things that just had to be done to either survive or to just get by, which is what made this book all the more appealing.

When I first opened the book and was instantly confronted with the image of Biggs' mother swamped by the mobile phones of her sex line business I knew I was in for an adventure filled tale. In Moral Danger is a book which houses many memorable characters which Biggs has been lucky, and unlucky, to have met and I am glad that I got to meet them too; from Ma, the almost gypsy like Madam who spouts such laughable comments as, "It's a medical fact that fat people hardly ever break bones", to Kirsty, who may look like the Virgin Mary but earns her living "entertaining" Japanese gentlemen, to Vernon, the damningly rational Barrister who sneaks into Biggs' bedroom at night.

This book, which is written in a purely conversational style is a good read for any Aussie looking for an unflinchingly honest yet hilarious adventure through the streets and suburbs we all know.

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