Author: Anita Heiss
Simon & Schuster RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Some good friends and I have been meaning to start a book club for well over a year. The trouble is, we all have teenagers and we’re having trouble settling on dates, so for now, I’m a proxy member of book clubs in books … I always seem to come across a book about a book club when I’m bemoaning our inability to get our act together! Tiddas by Anita Heiss is the story of five women who meet once a month to talk about books … and everything but books. Above all, it’s a story about friendship and the things that affect one’s ability to be a good friend. I love the idea of women who’ve known each other since childhood getting together decades later to hang out – it’s always a good hook for me, and reading Tiddas left me with a renewed desire to get my book club sorted once and for all!
Izzy, Ellen, Xanthe, Veronica and Nadine are more like sisters than friends. The word tiddas is described by Izzy as “sistas in an Aboriginal sense”, which more powerfully and aptly describes the deep bonds that tie them together; the lack of blood ties and the fact that Nadine and Veronica are white does not exclude any of them from being called tidda. It’s a lovely word. Decades of friendship means the women know each other very well, but one weekend they find out that best friends don’t always tell each other everything. What they learn about each other over the year challenges their notions of friendship at its core, as well as the friendships within the group. Most of all, each woman learns something about herself.
Readers will relate to the issues and challenges the five women experience, such as fertility, career, family and relationships, and sex – each of us can relate to one or all of them. Do we pursue a career? When do we have a family? What role does a woman have in the home? Different characters will appeal to readers because they will sense a familiarity with them – for example, Veronica is not only an empty nester, but her husband has left her for another woman … if she’s not a full-time mother and wife any more, who is she? Heiss takes the issues further, using her strong ensemble cast to add social commentary on Aboriginal culture, identity and politics. So, in addition to the everyday female experiences the women face, cultural values come into play. At times I felt that this agenda was pushed too hard, but there were other times I appreciated the insight. It’s certainly thought-provoking.
Heiss’s adeptness in creating a socio-political atmosphere also transfers to the setting. The women live in Brisbane, having each moved there at different times since their childhood in Mudgee, a NSW country town. I’ve been to Brisbane twice (once as a child and I don’t really remember it, the other as an adult for a day trip) but I don’t know it well at all. Heiss gave me a snapshot of a vibrant city that I now want to visit … although not in the humid months. The West End sounds great! Likewise, her descriptions of Mudgee were warm and inviting, and I look forward to tasting Mudgee wines one day.
The Jacaranda blooms on the cover also caught my attention (especially when a male co-worker most intelligently noted, “Purple flowers, that’s a girl’s book”). I gathered that they refer to the beauty of the trees in bloom in Brisbane, but I did wonder if there was any other significance. Whether it’s by coincidence or design, the name Jacaranda comes from a Portuguese word that means having a hard core … just like the friendship of the tiddas. Also, the blossoms are sometimes associated with re-birth, and each of the women in this novel emerge from the novel changed and matured … like a re-birth.
Realistic, warm and insightful, Tiddas was an engaging, contemplative read that made me long for my own tiddas … one of whom lives 4000+km away. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more Anita Heiss books.
Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Bookish treat: The tiddas enjoyed a glass of wine and some tasty cheese at their book club meet-ups. Sounds like a plan to me.
Izzy, soon to be the first Black woman with her own television show, has to make a decision that will change everything.
Veronica, recently divorced and dedicated to raising the best sons in the world, has forgotten who she is.
Xanthe, desperate for a baby, can think of nothing else, even at the expense of her marriage. – See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/Tiddas/Anita-Heiss/9781922052261#sthash.QFlXkNW0.dpuf