Better Reading Review
27 January 2021
The Women and The Girls by Laura Bloom is a 1970s Sensation
To say that Laura is a literary powerhouse is an understatement – she really is one of Australia’s most interesting and yet underrated authors. With the release of The Women and the Girls, I predict this will change. This novel has everything from bestseller to Netflix series written all over it.
Laura brings 1970s Sydney to vivid life, and I loved the setting for this as a historical. The three women, and their daughters, are placed at a crossroads not only in their lives, but in history of women. This doesn’t get political though. The brilliance of The Women and the Girls is how it explores this era in the unusual choices these women make about their lives.
Without giving too much away, I loved the three women, the exploration of their unhappiness, and that an ABBA concert is the turning point for them all. They are all beautifully drawn and different, all wise, witty, flawed and fierce. A kind of Monkey Grip meets Nine to Five, The Women and The Girls explores the price, and the rewards, of family and friendship in the Age of Aquarius – and at the dawning of the Age of Divorce. It is a celebration of women and being a woman, and I have been thinking about it days after turning the final page.
I love the cover. I love Laura’s polished writing and interesting character choices. And I loved spending time in this world. The Women and The Girls is, quite simply, sensational.
The Women and the Girls
Reviewed by Bec Kavanagh
Released January 2021
The Women and the Girls (Laura Bloom, A&U)
28 October 2020
The Women and the Girls follows three mothers as they walk away from their unhappy marriages and move their children into a share house in Sydney. Against a backdrop of 1970s misogyny Libby, Anna and Carol find new ways to navigate motherhood and friendship. In this lighthearted novel, Laura Bloom rejects the traditional rom-com, opting to instead follow a more contemporary journey of self-reckoning as each of the women discovers who they are when they are no longer defined completely by ‘wife or ‘mother’. The narrative moves quickly – on the same night that Carol decides to leave her threatening, overbearing husband, Anna discovers that hers is gay and Libby has a lightning-fast confrontation with her own marital dissatisfaction that also sees her running out the door. This narrative construct asside, it is refreshing to see who these women become in each other’s presence. The changes in the way they see each other and themselves will be familiar to all who have found comfort and belonging in the presence of chosen family rather than a prescribed one.
The subplot involving the shifting friendships between their children adds a level of complexity to Libby, Anna and Carol’s choices and interactions with each other, although their individual stories perhaps need more room to play out. At times Bloom’s observations about the way that wives and mothers were treated by society are articulated in a way that reads too contemporary for the novel’s 70s setting, but these observations are also a large part of the book’s appeal. Fans of Liane Moriarty will enjoy this friendship driven romp.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne writer and academic and the schools programmer at the Wheeler Centre.