“I have lived in this house, this cottage, for twenty years. I will die here. I have lived here any played my machine, pulled sound from the aether. I am electrical by nature; music invents me”
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt is the first novel by Australian author, Tracy Farr. After a poorly-reviewed performance on the theremin at the inaugural Transformer Festival in 1991, Dame Lena Gaunt is approached by film maker Mo Patterson who wants to produce a documentary about her life. Initially reluctant, Lena eventually agrees, but in doing so, exposes herself to memories, long buried, of the loves and losses that describe her eighty years.
Interspersed with the description of Lena’s everyday life by the beach at Cottesloe, and her interactions with Mo, are her reminiscences of an eventful life: Malacca, Perth, Sydney, Dunedin, Cottesloe and Europe, and the friends, family and the events, both joyful and tragic, that populated her existence. Farr gives the reader some beautiful descriptive prose, especially with regard to sound and music:
“Percussion sounded from the bridge as we passed under her, the pitch of the beaten, metallic tones changing as we moved in relation to the bridge. Sound bounced in every direction, both muffled and reflected, complicated by the water around us. The thrugging engines Houtman provided a steady background beat, and the sounds from the bridge sometimes fought and syncopated with the ship’s rhythm, sometimes complemented it, ran with it, helped speed us along the water” and “…….a pressure I can hear inside my head as a single note, humming, musical, low…. lower than any note I have heard before. It is the lowest note in the universe; a grace note, a ghost note, the low hum of everything connecting” are two examples.
This interesting, informative and often moving novel was long listed for the 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
on 13 April 2014
I found this a very interesting book. It covers the lifetime of Lena Gaunt from childhood in Malacca to her return to Western Australia. The life of someone who is pitch perfect is fascinating as is the, almost unknown, instrument she plays - the Theremin. The story covers several countries and focuses on many relationships. This book is well written and different from the many biographies that are around.