Somehow I missed Emily Maguire’s popular and critically acclaimed An Isolated Incident so I was excited to receive her latest novel, Love Objects, for review. I realised as soon as I started reading that I wasn’t familiar with her writing. Her sentences are long, almost verbose*. And perhaps because of this, her prose is lyrical and quite lovely.
Very weirdly it was the second book I’d read about a hoarder in a couple of weeks. I’m not sure if the focus on minimalism has shone the light on its polar opposite or whether hoarder reality TV shows have inspired authors.
I loved the way Maguire portrays our lead character Nic here and as a single middle-aged woman (though I’m far from a hoarder) I could very much relate to her view on life.Love Objects
by Emily Maguire
Published by Allen & Unwin
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
Nic is a forty-five-year-old trivia buff, amateur nail artist and fairy godmother to the neighbourhood's stray cats.
She's also the owner of a decade's worth of daily newspapers, enough clothes and shoes to fill Big W three times over and a pen collection which, if laid end-to-end, would probably circle her house twice.
The person she's closest to in the world is her beloved niece Lena, who she meets for lunch every Sunday. One day Nic fails to show up. When Lena travels to her aunt's house to see if Nic's all right, she gets the shock of her life, and sets in train a series of events that will prove cataclysmic for them both.
This book is actually about Lena as much as it is about her aunt and Maguire gives us two really likeable characters. Nic is prickly so she’s supposed to be off-putting and in some ways we really don’t fully understand why she’s the person we meet in the present. The plot partially unfolds from her point-of-view however so we understand her thinking and receive snippets from her past, making her sympathetic and quirky rather than annoying and obsessive.
Nic and Lena are close (in an intimate aunt / niece) way and the pair text each other often and share things about their lives but they live in opposite parts of Sydney so meet somewhere in between. It means Lena’s shocked when she goes to her aunt’s house.
I must confess I expected her to feel a little more guilt, but her reaction is one more of shock and horror.
Perhaps I related more to the older-single woman but I expected more analysis on Lena’s part, wondering why her aunt is… the way she is. She’s very accepting of her aunt’s quirks on one level but it was interesting to see her reaction to the life her aunt has chosen to lead. To me (obvs) it felt as if Lena believed her aunt had mislead her in some way. #orsomething
But of course, in the background Lena’s dealing with her own issues and the fallout of some online trolling (which is an understatement but to say more would give away too much!). The distraction of Nic’s situation is actually quite timely as it means Lena can’t wallow in guilt, regret and anger about her own situation.
Maguire offers us very realistic characters in Nic and Lena (as well as Lena’s brother Will). Lena had to work hard to get into University and is honest about it being a challenge for her. It was also nice to meet Nic – a trivia buff who feels quite fulfilled working as a checkout operator. She’s ridiculously pragmatic and her colleagues accept her for who she is. And of course we understand she’s very kind hearted beneath the stand-offish exterior.
I actually really liked where Maguire takes Nic in the end. I can’t say too much more but I pondered this in Everything is Beautiful – another book featuring a hoarder. I wondered if we have the right to judge others based on our own values or expectations. (Assuming they’re not at risk or wanting help of course.)
There are deeper themes afoot here. About families and relationships. About history repeating itself. About our expectations of others. And about people not being who you think they are.
I should also mention the cover of this book is absolutely stunning!
Love Objects by Emily Maguire was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* I mean this in a good way as I say the same thing about Jane Austen whose writing I adore.