Tuesday, August 8, 2017

'A Hundred Small Lessons' by Ashley Hay

Elsie fell down. This sweet, lovely lady fell down and couldn't get back up, so spent a day or so on the floor of her living room watching the sun pass over the carpet; watching the colours of the day change and how the light changed throughout the house for a while - something she hadn't noticed before - until the police kicked down her door and the paramedics zoomed her off to hospital.

But she never came back home.

This was the sad part - and a sad reality for a lot of elderly people. They are taken to hospital; and from there, they are shuffled off to a home by their family; a family who think they're doing the right thing. 
While she's in the home, Elsie's two children, Don and Elaine empty out her house. Don is a sentimental man who often stops to peruse and remember the good times over photographs, wonder over others and packs things carefully. Elaine just goes through the place like a bull in a china shop and throws out things she doesn't think is important (whether it is or not doesn't interest her - just getting rid of the 'junk' is the main thing).

However, when Don takes the boxes of things to Elsie's new home, he discovers he's picked up the wrong one and finds that everything he's given her are things she hates. The blue mug that was on the counter near the sink was Elsie's favourite... and all the photos in the box in the ceiling (did he check there? No, he didn't) were the ones she loved the most. And why did he bring this vase? It's hideous. It was then, he realised he should have had her right there.

But the house has been sold to a lovely couple who are young: Lucy Kiss and her husband Ben, with their sweet little boy, Tom. While Ben is in his hometown of Brisbane, Lucy has found this humid city of large, purple-flowering trees is strange and unusual to her. She doesn't like it that it rains so much, she doesn't know her way around as much as she does in Sydney, and the old house they bought still has the old-fashioned fittings of the 1960's. 

Lucy is finding things from the life of Elsie, things she thinks the older woman would want back at some point; but she never gets around to contacting the previous owner. She starts drinking out the blue mug she found behind the front door (why was it there?). The photos in the ceiling were beautiful, but who were they of? And does she really like Brisbane really?


I've read Australian books before - even Brisbane-based books - and for a good part of the time, I've loved them. However, as the small chapters moved on, I found it harder and harder to read them. This is a very melancholy book to read - which isn't really my thing, but it's nice to get into one of them once in a while - but I found this book very depressing. It started off sounding lovely, sweet and pretty. It had all the right turns of phrase, and made me want to read more. Then, something in it change, and I found it was becoming harder and harder to read, and I simply lost interest in it. This is why this is an Unfinished Read.