Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The eye-catching colourful cover of Love Objects depicts a mass of brilliant blooms. Woven amongst them is a young dark haired woman’s shape, seamlessly melded.
The symbolism is puzzling but above all, thought provoking.
The book itself describes how the three main characters’ lives are linked and shaped by the things they love.
Nic, aunt to Lena and Will, is a hoarder. She lives in the inherited family home in Leichhardt, inner Sydney, and it is crammed with items she is attached to with myriad associations. Lena has saved to attend University, and Will, her brother, drifts down to Sydney from Queensland, fresh from a relationship break-up and newly released from a brief jail term.
Nic’s home is crowded with everything she has resisted throwing away – from multiple defunct appliances to posters advertising lost pets. Unsurprisingly, in the chaos and difficulty of her surroundings, she has a fall. She is hospitalised and cannot return home until it is made safer.
Her devoted niece, Lena, arrives and, together with her brother Will, disposes of mountains of what they regard as junk. Nic is devastated by the loss of her cherished objects. This leads to drama, confrontation, confessions, and eventually a deeper awareness of each other. It is revealed that her hoarding has only occurred in recent years. Connections are made to this and possible explanations.
Some questions do arise, as to hoarding being solely a poorer person’s disorder?
Museums have vast collections. For centuries, the wealthy and powerful have made admired, even envied, collections. Recently, in Adelaide, I visited an overcrowded home, now a gallery, which featured one of the best collections of walking sticks, amongst a multitude of other things, in the world. The owner had bid against Mick Jagger for one rare stick, at Sotheby’s! His collection was not considered to be hoarding…….
Hoarding is regarded as a mental/psychological disorder now. It’s not usually attached to the affluent whose collections are housed in larger premises and they have the means to indulge their ‘fetish’ of more valuable objects.
Nic’s hoarding is deeply emotional. Her objects trigger memories in faithful detail, making them vital to her happiness. While supporting her in her struggle to accept her loss of many of her treasured items, Will and Lena have their own issues to confront.
Lena suffers from the betrayal by Josh, a student she had been attracted to, who has made her a victim of internet porn. It destroys her joy in life, and persists, as Josh continues to attempt contact by constant texting. Her life at University, work, and socially, halts. Her depression begins to lift when an acquaintance reminds her ‘Everyone’s a f….. idiot’. For some, she realises, human feelings of guilt, shame, and regret are erased, particularly on the Net.
Will, for most of the book, is penniless, and gripped by excruciating toothache. His ordeal is so graphically described that a reader begins to suffer too! Battling his agony, he reflects. Despite his mistakes, it is evident that he is a gentle, caring man who has learned from some brutal lessons.
At one stage he cries, ‘I don’t want to care about everything, all the time!’ A cry that would echo with many young people around the world today.
Love Objects itself becomes a book to love. The characters are both sad and funny, their inner lives laid bare in a deeply sympathetic and insightful way.
I enjoyed Nic’s smile when she walked past three ‘fancy pants’ cars with a line of muddy paws across each of their bonnets.
In the current climate, the frank, and to some, offensive language about sex and women may offend, but the writing overall is excellent. It would be a shame to miss reading one of the best novels of the year so far, because of that.
To quote Nic, in her characteristic generosity, ‘there is a shadow of hope, cool and kind, ahead.’
Emily Maguire has written six novels. An Isolated Incident won widespread praise and her journalism is much admired.
Love Objects is, perhaps, her finest work yet.
Highly recommended, especially for Book Clubs.
by Emily Maguire
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 978 1760 87833 7