Good Reading : June 2004
14 goodreading author profile Georgia Blain is about to publish her fourth novel, Names for Nothingness. Like her three earlier works, it looks at the dynamics of relationship, both within and without the tra- ditional family, trying to tease out what it is that can make things go wrong. Georgia’s books are eminently readable, written with deceptive simplicity. I go to visit her on a bright Sydney morning, and she greets me looking youthful and summery in a floral dress.The front veranda of her Marrickville house is comfortably cluttered with the paraphernalia of domesticity: battered old chairs, pots with plants and pots without, a scattering of toys.The inside of the house also has the agreeable feeling of family habitation. Books abound, of course, and also paintings, cushions, more toys, a child’s school activities schedule pinned to the fridge. ‘My daughter just started school this year,’ Georgia tells me as she busies herself making coffee. ‘She absolutely adores it. It’s a nice small one where they encourage the big kids to look after the lit- tle ones. Odessa has a complete crush on a girl inYear 6; we have to arrive early in order to watch her arrive and when she does, Odessa almost swoons with excitement. It’s very touching.’ Georgia moved to Marrickville about six months ago with her partner and daughter, driven out of the lively Bondi scene by Sydney’s ever-escalating property market. ‘It still feels a little strange round here,’ she says. ‘I did love being right on the ocean, and hav- ing so much life and activity passing our doorstep. It’s quiet here. But I’m glad we did this rather than move too far out of town, right down the coast.’ Georgia is the daughter of writer and broadcaster Anne Deveson, whose best-known work, Tell Me I’m Here, is about the illness and eventual death of her son, Georgia’s brother. He suffered from schizophrenia, a devastating illness both for the victims and for their families. Deveson’s nakedly truthful book undoubtedly helped to change attitudes to mental illness within the community. This is delicate territory. Georgia has made her own reputation as a novelist, so it’s a little tentatively that I ask her whether it’s a benefit or a burden to have such a well-known mother. ‘It can be a double-edged sword,’ she replies. ‘When my first book came out, the connection was used to publicise it, which I understand because there’s a lot of competition out there and it’s a way to get attention. Now I think we’re both totally at ease with it, and in fact I’m getting Anne to launch this new book.’ When that first novel, Closed for Winter, was published in 1998, Georgia was already well into writing her second. ‘Just as well,’ she laughs, ‘because I became pregnant while I was still working on it. I was determined to finish before the baby came, but as my focus was very much on the pregnancy, I was spared all that sec- nothingness something from For a writer whose characters are often looking for some kind of happiness, novelist GEORGIA BLAIN seems to have found her own. She tells CAROLINE LURIE about her – and her characters’ – journey through life.