Good Reading : March 2010
book club Author profile Laura Bloom is an Australian writer based in Mullumbimby who has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Prize for Young Adult Fiction and the ABC Fiction Prize. After publishing two earlier novels (Augustine's Lunch and Choosing Zoe) she stopped writing for six years to plan the series of novels she is engaged in writing now, set at various times in the 20th century. Synopsis It's February 1946, and Robert Booker has just returned home from the war. He and his wife, Catherine, haven't seen each other for three years, yet they are separated by so much more than time. By 1944 Robert's letters had dwindled, and one night Catherine found herself so desperate with loneliness and fear that she got drunk on bootleg gin and found herself in Sydney's Kings Cross.There she found company, and trouble: a US Marine named Lewis with whom she spent the next week. Now, unbeknownst to Robert, Catherine has had a baby, and her deter mination to forget her baby, and forget Lewis, is matched by Robert's deter mination to forget the ter rible things he has experienced on the battlefield in New Guinea. Reading group questions 1. Despite the evocative historical setting, In the Mood feels very much like a modern story, exploring many issues relevant to women of today: love, intimacy, motherhood, career and non-traditional family structures. Discuss the relevance of this story to a modern-day readership. 2. Trouble starts for Catherine while Robert's at war when, desperate with loneliness, she tur ns to a bottle of gin and heads to the Cross. There she finds trouble, and company, in the for m of the US Marine, Lewis. What is it about Lewis that draws Catherine to him, and makes him so difficult to part with? 3. Robert's flashbacks to his time in New Guinea provide an interesting insight into life on the battlefield. Is it a romanticised portrayal? 4. This novel shifts in time between Catherine and Robert's separation and reunion, and their story comes together piece by piece, like a jigsaw. Ironically, at the same time Catherine and Robert both unravel before our eyes. Discuss the way Laura Bloom has chosen to tell this story, and how we respond as readers. 5. Catherine is a gifted architect and, like so many other professional women, wartime provided her with professional opportunity. Discuss the impact of the mass retrenchment of women at the war's end on women like Catherine, Edna and Connie. What do you think may have been the longer-ter m implications on Australian society? 6. Like so many returning serviceman, Robert finds it difficult to adjust to civilian life once the war is over. How has his experience of war changed him? 7. Robert claims his friendship with Keith is what gets him through the war. Discuss the importance of Keith's diary -- to both Keith, on the battlefield, and to Robert at the war's end. 8. The homecoming of retur ned servicemen was a difficult period for both those retur ning, and those welcoming them back. Both Robert and Des return damaged men. How do Catherine and Pam cope -- and how do their domestic lives change in the face of the homecoming? 9. Wartime separation inevitably bred secrets and betrayals between men and women. Discuss Catherine's attitude to the baby she has during Robert's absence, and how her feelings change. 10. Does Pam have sinister designs on Catherine's baby, or is she simply a well- meaning neighbour? 11. Gary knows he is brash and insensitive, yet there is also wisdom about him. Discuss the contradictions in Gary's character, and why he represents those who stand to gain at the war's end. 12. The title of this novel of course comes from the fabulous Glenn Miller jazz piece. How is jazz used as a metaphor in the book? 13. What does this book tell us about male/ female relationships -- and marriage? In the Mood by Laura Bloom is published by Viking, rrp $32.95. The most heart-warming novel of friendship and belonging that you will read this year. In all good bookstores now vintage stories Looking for a book for your reading group to discuss? In the Mood by Laura Bloom is a compelling novel that, although set in the 1940s, explores many issues relevant to women today.