Queenslander Laraine Dillon's first novel, The Easement, was obviously bubbling in the back of her mind for many years. Published in 2008, it is a passionate and irreverent tale of moving to the seaside in the late 1980s.
After a slowish start dealing with shifty real estate agents and lawyers, first person narrator Maggie Stewart takes us on a whirlwind adventure. It is shared with laconic husband Max, complete with his silver hammer, daughter Amber and a family that extends exponentially as the story progresses.
It is the world of the 'white shoe brigade' who were known to sell land below the high-tide mark in the Sunshine state. Probably still do. This is not a tale of the Aussie battler. The magnificent seascapes of Reflection Bay are viewed from their swimming pools. But nor is about the silver-tails. Our heroes are the aspirants making good.
Their eccentric neighbours, the Pitts, are the vehicle for much of the dramatic tension and a considerable amount of farfetched farce. The Stewarts get lots of help in creating mayhem from their friends, especially Irish lawyer Markus and his wife Madonna, and a group of Harley bikers known as the Ulysses Club.
What 21st Century novel would be without some cuisine flavour. The staff of their new restaurant 'Maxwell's' also come to the party, lead by the stereotypical gay Frankie.
The pace gets more frenetic and the plot farcical, as the climax explodes at a wedding and an auction. To quote Maggie from earlier in the story, things are "all over the place like a fart in an colander".
Laraine certainly enjoyed writing The Easement, so I'm looking forward to her latest The Pitts in Paradise. Just hope she can spare us the camel scene this time.
A major theme involves connections with the indigenous world, with Duncan Ryan as a very modern aborigine. Identity and land rights are important aspects. Laraine dedicates the book to her family and her ancestors but "sadly" she has no indigenous ones that she can find.
Maggie and Max Stewart have resumed their northward quest to Port Douglas and beyond. This time they get as far as a beach near Proserpine, just near the famous Airlie Beach resort.
In contrast to the somewhat slow start to The Easement, the opening hot dream is followed by some not-so-steamy sex. A less than promising response to Maggie's advances finally gets some poetry: "there was movement at the station". But sex is something left to your imagination. For heavens sake, this is a family story. Even the roughest characters are only allowed to yell, "Oh, f..k!". "Bugger!", on the other hand, is quite acceptable.
Kevin Rennie is a retired secondary teacher, unionist and has been an Australian Labor Party member since 1972. He spent eight years teaching in the Northern Territory: four in Katherine, followed by four in Maningrida, an aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. Kevin lived in Broome from January 2007 to May 2008 and now lives in Melbourne. He blogs at Red Bluff,
Labor View from Bayside and
Cinematakes. He is also a