Review: Come in Spinner by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James
Those of you who have been following this blog from the start may be very surprised to learn that I had never even heard of this classic Australian novel until very recently, when HarperCollins decided to rerelease it, along with several other classics under their Angus and Robertson imprint. Come in Spinner was first published in 1951 amid a wave of controversy, whereby both of the authors saw much of their novel hacked and cut because much of the content was considered far too inappropriate for the times. It was not until the 1980s and after the death of one of its authors that the book was eventually published in full and went on to become a top-rating miniseries on none other than the ABC. (Note to my international followers, ABC stands for Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is a government owned television station.) Come in Spinner is set in Sydney during the tail end of World War Two and opens with what else, but a game of two up that is taking place in a hotel lift. The 700 page novel then goes on to tell the stories of a week in the lives of a number of women who are all somehow connected with the Marie Antoinette salon. The politics of the times is important, as is the conflicting roles of women in wartime Australia--the need for women to survive and make a comfortable life for themselves versus notions of duty and proper behaviour. Some characters were far easier to like than others--for example, it was far easier to identify with and feel empathy for Guinea and her younger sister Monnie, both of whom are basically good people who find themselves in trying circumstances (Guinea is being pursued by numerous American soldiers and believes that the one man she truly cares for does not want her, Monnie is tricked into working in a brothel,) than for Deb, whose idea of repairing her broken marriage isn't standing up for herself, but to have an affair with a wealthy and uptight older man who'll come in as a pseudo father figure and help organise her divorce. And then there are the stories of backyard abortions (no legal alternatives back then,) and the tragic complications that arise from such, gambling and the way the local women are treated by the young, American soldiers who are out to have a good time while on leave in Sydney.
I enjoyed reading Come in Spinner though it seemed overlong in places and perhaps somewhat sensationalised in others.