Now That We're Laughing
by Margaret Trist
The heading for this post, "All in the Family", has two meanings. Firstly, this book is a fictional tale about Australian families and secondly, and most importantly, because it was written by one of my family members.
One of the challenges in the Take Another Chance Challenge is to read a book by your doppelganger (a person with the same name, or part of the same name). In passing I mentioned this to my Father who, ever so matter-of-factly, pointed out that my Great Aunt Peggy was a famous author. My first thought was, "thanks for keeping that from me for the last 23 years, me not being into books at all!" and my second thought was, "I have got to find out all I can about this woman, and I simply must read her books!"
After a few weeks of searching I managed to find first edition prints of three of her four novels and, luckily for me, the forth is the only Margaret Trist book held by my local library.
So, here is my review of my Great Aunt's novel Now That We're Laughing, which is the one I managed to find at the library and was the last one that she wrote. Now that We're Laughing was published in the United States as Sun on the Hills.
Publisher; Angus & Robertson/Halstead Press/Sydney/1945
Plot; The Carlingford family are a typical, lower middle class family living in Upper Glen in the Australian Blue Mountains. Delia and Tom Carlingford, a salt-of-the-earth couple, are the parents to several children, the eldest of which is Sheila, a very proper young lady.
The Blairs are an upper middle class family who also live in Upper Glen, but they live in the mansion overlooking the small town. Carol, snooty and antisocial, and Herbert, quietly friendly, are the parents to only child Jimmy, who has just returned home on leave from months away at war.
The Henderson women are a group of sisters living with their loud, rude and overbearing Mother. Throughout the small town they are known as women of ill repute; their husbands are oversea fighting and yet they still manage to keep reproducing.
What brings these three families together, and draws their stories together, is a love triangle between Shelia Carlingford, Jimmy Blair and Joyce Handerson.
My Thoughts; I am not just saying this because of my newly found ties with the author, but this is a brilliant read. As I travelled page by page through this story I could not help but immerse myself in the story and the truly wonderful characters.
In terms of the writing there is an author to whom I can relate style and that is Tim Winton, particularly Cloudstreet. They both write in a truly Australian, make no concessions, way that is honest and beautiful, even when depicting the not-so-beautiful.
The one main difference between Winton and Trist, apart from the obvious difference in time, is that Trist mainly writes from the female point of view. She has a wonderful way of pointing out those differences between men and women, almost making the male of the species simple by comparison. She depicts the women as judgemental but she also depicts them as having many layers while the men are depicted as the friendly go betweens, oblivious to the social world of women. This is all with the acception of Jimmy Blair.
Ah, Jimmy Blair, the character that you love to hate. The shiny new toy in town. Devoted to Sheila one minute and Joyce the next. Although he was a bit of a cad, I couldn't help but put Jimmy on my "Favourite Character" podium. He was the character with the most storyline and the most meat to sink your teeth into.
I must also admit that the Henderson women, all though they are meant to be the social villains of the story, are the characters that made me laugh the most. There was no haughty facade to this family, they were happy to be themselves, making them all the more appealing to me.
There was not one moment that I was disappointed while reading this book. It may not have the power of a wartime story set on the fields of battle, but it leaves you with a warm heart.