I have the inestimable pleasure of reviewing a book from the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Notable List – Older Readers. The Guy, The Girl, The Artist And His EX by Gabrielle Williams is sassy, quirky and with that unique Australian allure (yeah, we’re alluring) that gives it a definite antipodean appeal.
I always admire authors who write about lives intersecting. Its hard enough getting one story line straight let alone meshing together the intricate strands of characters hell bent on either destruction or self interrogation. Yet, a rock chick, an artist with a chip on his shoulder, a girl with skeletons in her closet and the perennial party monster all mesh together in a scramble of angst when Picasso’s Weeping Woman is stolen from the National Gallery.
Rafi, Guy, Luke and Penny are total strangers but with the painting’s theft, they come together like a F5 Tornado in a field full of cows. The Guy is Guy Lethlean, Year 12 student who is furiously hiding his school reports from his parents whilst trying to drum up ambition for life after school. He’s heart’s in the right place though and his motivations turn out to be the right ones.
The Girl, 17 year old Rafi, after losing her three year old brother in a tragic drowning, loses her mother Estelle as well as she drifts in and out of reality. Her snowballing depression drives her to draw La Llorona – a horse-headed woman of South American mythology. Rafi is forced to take a back seat to her mother’s illness and so she quietly goes on her own way; studying, baby sitting, trying to spend as many hours away from a grieving parent.
The Artist, Luke, is a self absorbed, narcissistic player who comes up with the brilliant plan to steal the Picasso and replace it with a forgery. He sees himself as an artist of high principles so in his mind the forgery will bring attention to the lack of government funding for Victorian artists. Luke is rather like a bulldozer; he doesn’t mind who he steamrolls, his ex Penny, his son Joshie, various sundry people who get in his way. (The EX, Penny, is a woman who doesn’t wish to be the ex, finding it desperately hard to let go of Luke even though he treats her like garbage left out on the street).
I really did like Gabrielle Williams ability to interject humour (sometimes the if I don’t laugh I’ll cry variety) into her story line. Interpersonal relationships; the crushing weight of family combined with the sweetness of relatives. Authors who make stories real are often those who understand suffering and all the pricks that chip away at our psyche. Read this book if you want to understand life a bit more.
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