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Book DetailsISBN: 9781925355451
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Book Review: Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan - Reviewed by CloggieA (19 Apr 2016)
“Please tell me you’re here because you’re moonlighting as a surprise volunteer naked door-to-door mattress inspector”
Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is the fourth novel by award-winning Australian author, Toni Jordan. It’s Saturday morning, and Janice (38, microbiologist) would normally be at the lab tending to her nice, predictable bacteria. But today, she’s at her sister’s place, dealing with unpredictable humans, trying to avert disaster.
Caroline (41, mother of Mercedes and Paris) is having a meltdown: Henry, her husband of fifteen years, is leaving. As he packs his belongings, Janice scoots between husband and wife, desperate to mend the rift for the sake of her young nieces. Mercedes readily offers opinions but Paris is worryingly silent. In the midst of this drama, Craig and Lesley, next-door neighbours pop in to offer gratuitous advice.
Janice’s efforts are unsuccessful: the fact that she divorced Alec, the love of her life, two years ago, apparently disqualifies her from offering relationship advice. Henry is determined, and soon pretty young Martha (Miss Roland, teacher of Mercedes) turns up to collect him in her jaunty orange VW beetle.
Jordan gives the reader a sitcom that would be easy to envisage on the stage: characters depart on flights to Noosa (and return unexpectedly); climb a garden trellis; turn up naked in the wrong bed; talk at crossed purposes; are overcome by passion (or pretend to be). Doorbells ring at highly inopportune moments; ex’s, mistresses, lovers and neighbours turn up to stay the night; secrets are revealed.
The strength of any good farce lies with the dialogue, and Jordan fills her novel with clever banter, malapropisms and the delightful observations of children: “It’s only for grown-ups. It’s sour, but when you get old, that’s what you like” (Mercedes on wine).
Except for the charming Mercedes and Paris, all the characters are flawed and very human. Some, like Alec, are (very) appealing, some, like Craig, eminently throttle-able: “You’re allowed to experience lust. It’s natural. I hate to see female passion being suppressed by the societal conventions of the male-dominant paradigm of the phallocentric patriarchy”.
Amidst the comedy, Jordan manages to touch on infidelity (of course), infertility, single-parent families, a common childhood misconception about cats and dogs, and the contents of the high cupboard in the kitchen. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but also one or two to cause a lump in the throat.
There should be a warning attached to this book, however. Reading in public may garner disapproval due to the inelegant snorting, snickering and laughing out loud which is inevitable. Similarly, reading certain passages whilst eating or drinking is inadvisable due to a possible choking hazard or other food/drink related mishap.
The back-cover blurb states “Toni Jordan harnesses the exquisite timing of classic farce to the narrative power and emotional intelligence for which she is famous to produce a brilliant, heartbreaking, hilarious novel”. A more accurate or succinct description than this would be difficult to conceive. This book is an absolute pleasure to read and fans of Jordan’s work will not be disappointed.
Toni Jordan is the author of four novels. The international bestseller Addition (2008), was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award. Fall Girl (2010) was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award and was named in Kirkus Review's top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Her latest novel is Our Tiny, Useless Hearts (2016). Toni has been widely published in newspapers and magazines.
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