Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor

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Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A wry, touching, well observed look at a personal struggle with change. If you agree with any of the sentiments in Jenny Joseph's poem, 'Warning', you'll be cheering Fiona McGregor's heroine on page by page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857894120

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Once wealthy, middle class Australian suburbanite Marie King never thought she'd be starting a new life at 59 but here she is, divorced and having to sell the marital home. Unfortunately, attached to the marital home is the marital garden into which Marie didn't only give life but also pour her own life. However, Marie tries to be positive and decides that if she's going to be a new person, she may as well go the whole way. This means tattoos (much to her offsprings' horror) and an unlikely friendship with tattooist Rhys. With that comes the realisation that the privileged suburb of Mossman isn't all there is to Sydney. There's much more to the city, and indeed herself, than she first thought.

Australian author and performance artist, Fiona McGregor, had written three novels prior to Indelible Ink, all of which were short listed for literary awards and the third Suck My Toes won the prestigious Steele Rudd. Indelible Ink doesn't seem to be an exception as its collected accolades include The Age Book of the Year, and understandably so.

This novel is a coming of age story from two angles. Firstly it's about the discovery and maturation of Marie's independence and secondly the maturation of her adult children. That makes it sound quite boring and worthy-wordy, but, happily, it's quite the reverse.

In any book purporting to represent a life, all the emotions need to be represented, and this is the case here with laughter alongside the tears and pauses for thought and, of course, you can't have real emotion without real people. This is one of the instances where the author's skill is evident. Fiona McGregor may be nowhere near 59 and yet she writes with authority and accuracy about a woman of that age remaking her world.

Marie is the sort of person whose life has always belonged to others rather than her. Ross, her ex-husband, seemed very demanding, and then there are her children. Clark (divorced and coming to terms with the meagre contact arrangements for his daughter), Blanche (a thrusting advertising exec) and Leon (a gay horticulturalist) all need support and a motherly mind to worry about them. Even her friends seem to direct her free time and spending. Saddest of all, an affair she had whilst married to Ross (something normally considered to be a selfish act) seemed to have been initiated by the other party as a mode of retaliation against Ross rather than from attraction to Marie. This is why the tattoos are so important to her. Claiming her life back through the divorce courts isn’t enough, Marie has to claim back her own skin as proof that she actually inhabits it. The tattoos aren't just decoration; they mark Marie's reclaimed territory.

The author ensures that there are some magical moments to savour whilst witnessing Marie's journey. They come in various shades of mood from funny (Marie's second guessing of a fellow bar user's motives for talking to a waiter), to poignant (the accounts of Marie's marital indiscretion) and just plain delicious (the children's reaction to the tattoos) but they all make you stop and evaluate ideas in a very Anne Tyler way.

I have two minor criticisms but they're incredibly minor and nothing that would prevent me buying Indelible Ink. Firstly I feel it's a tiny bit long but I'm prepared to accept that's just me. Secondly, as Fiona McGregor's fame grows outside her native Australia, the publishers may want to think about adding a glossary as not everyone outside its environs would understand some of the local terms and abbreviations, e.g. CBD ('Central Business District') or AFL ('Australian Football League' or Aussie rules as we know it over here).

Indelible Ink has been described as characters negotiating change and loss. It also reflects our humanity in a way that may cause us to react with a smile, a wince or empathy, but we will still recognise each moment as a facet of ourselves and that's a sign of a good writer.

I would like to thank Atlantic Books for giving Bookbag a copy of this book for review.

If you enjoyed this and would like to sample another emerging Australian talent, we recommend The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.

Buy Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor at

Buy Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor at


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