Reckoning by Magda Szubanski
|Reckoning by Magda Szubanski|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Star of films such as Babe, and the cult classic TV show Kath and Kim , author Magda Szubanzki has written a family history that soars to surprising heights. Intimate yet far reaching, Szubanski goes from exploring her family's intricate past, with a particular focus on her father, a friendly, supportive father who just happened to be an assassin during the war, to the author's childhood as an immigrant in Australia, coming to terms with her sexuality. Moving and engaging throughout, it's a great read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: October 2016|
|Publisher: Text Publishing Company|
|External links: Author's website|
In her memoir, actress, comedian and activist Magda Szubanski describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood as an immigrant child, haunted by the demons of her father's espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.
I'm a big Kath and Kim fan – my experience of Australian culture is essentially based on that, Neighbours, and repeated viewings of Muriel's Wedding. Author Magda Szubanski played a character called Sharon Strzelecki in Kath and Kim – a comedy character that nevertheless provided a lot of heart to the show, in contrast to the other rather more self-centred characters that featured. When I heard that Magda Szubanski had written a book, I was initially expecting it to be a rather light comedy volume, as is often the case with celebrity autobiographies. However, I was in for a very big surprise.
This is not a light book. It's clear that the author has a fantastic sense of humour, and this does shine through, but some very heavy subjects are touched upon as one reads, most centrally the author's gradual discovery of her father's past in wartime Poland. It's a harrowing subject, and whilst the author knows that her father was a good man at heart, the sense of fear, unease, danger and unpredictability in these sections is rather overwhelming, and it's genuinely fantastic documentary writing. The Szubanski family, a mix of Poles and Scots, lived in England for some time before moving over to Australia, and the tales of their move, as well as struggling to fit in as a family are similarly compelling, not least because the author had an awareness of her sexuality from an early age. Growing up LGBT is hard in a lot of places – and anyone who has been following the recent media coverage regarding the struggle to legalise gay marriage in Australia, will know that some attitudes over there are still rather old fashioned, making the authors tale particularly compelling. She's the focus of the book, but by no means the star – she's willing to shine a light on various members of her family, all of whom are endlessly fascinating in their own right, and deftly brought to life by the author, who has a real knack for exploring and explaining characters in just a few words. So much so, in fact, that this is screaming to be made into a film or a TV series – the mix of humour and drama making it a must watch show.
Packed full of humour, drama and insights from a warm and hugely intelligent woman, Reckoning is a tale of love, family and history that is well worth a read even if you're familiar with the author's previous work or not. Brave, raw and relatable, it's one that will stick with me for a long time, and I'm very grateful to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading, I'm going to recommend HHhH by Laurent Binet. Whilst HHhH focuses mainly on the story of Heydrich, the man who practically rules the Czech Republic during World War II, contrast is provided by the author exploring his own life in between historical points. Reckoning is far warmer and wider reaching than that, but it's similarly an incredibly cleverly written book that truly shines a light on the horror of war told through an outsider's perspective.
Reckoning by Magda Szubanski is in the Top Ten Autobiographies and Biographies 2016.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Reckoning by Magda Szubanski at Amazon.com.
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