July Book Club Choice: Autumn Laing

GGC Book Club for Adults

GGC Book Club for Adults

Welcome to She Said/She Said, where GGC Members are our book reviewers from across Canada sharing their opinions about the book of the month.

This month we take a look at Autumn Laing by Alex Miller, published by Harper Collins Canada. Our reviewers rate this book as follows:

This book is suitable for adults over the age of 18.  It contains profanity, some violence and a fair amount of sexual content.

Autumn Laing by Alex Miller

Autumn Laing by Alex Miller

She Said: By Desiré White
Regina, SK

Initially, I found it difficult to get into Autumn Laing, simply because it wasn’t of a genre that I’d normally choose for myself.  But, that’s part of being a Girl Guide, right?  We get pushed outside of our “boxes” on a regular basis and learn that’s it’s something that we all need to do once in a while.

Once I sat down with it and had enough time to get attached to and grow fond of the characters, though, I was enthralled by the well-developed characters and sometimes shocking incidences.  I really couldn’t put it down once I got into the story.  I felt a strong desire to get to know the characters and what made them tick, as they were so incredibly real.

Alex Miller does a wonderful job of untangling the complicated web of betrayal, love and jealousy that the main character, Autumn Laing, has woven for herself and those in her life.  Readers get to know not only her 85-year old self in the present, but also get to enjoy the memories that she digs up from her younger days as she writes the memoir that she’s suddenly obsessed with.

This book meets the criteria of the Girl Guides of Canada book club as the main character is female.   It also corresponds with program topics such as health and wellness, poverty, arts and culture and self-esteem.

— Desiré is a Brownie and Trex Unit Guider.  She enjoys volunteering with many different organizations, but Guiding owns her heart.  She loves spending time with family and friends, and being outside. 

She Said: Tania Mask
Windsor, ON

Autumn Laing by Alex Miller starts very slowly, it was almost difficult to read the ramblings of Autumn, a bitter and cranky old woman who is mean to everyone, especially those that are attempting to care for her or help her. Autumn was compelled to write her memoir after seeing Edith, the ex-wife of Pat Dolan (an artist with whom she had an affair).

This book is written mainly in the first person, as 85 year old Autumn writing her personal memoirs, while struggling with her age and infirmity. Other chapters are written in the third person in which Autumn appears as a character, Autumn does this to fictionalize parts of her past to achieve what she believes is the truth.  The story centers around Autumn and her circle of friends in the Australian art world, as they struggle to find their own artistic identity.

Autumn is/was a very strong willed, powerful woman; her youth destroyed her ability to have children, and ultimately caused her disloyalty to her husband, Arthur Laing.  Autumn takes Pat on as a “project” to help him find his own Australian style of art.  Pat’s career is a success due to Autumn, but then he rejects her when she is no longer of use to him.

Although it may be a struggle to read, stick with it.  The book picks up pace as Autumn’s stories start to weave together, and is well worth it in the end.

Tania Mask. Photo Credit: Nicole Wood's Timeless Treasures Photography— Tania lives in Windsor, Ontario and is working towards getting her P.Eng designation as a civil/environmental engineer.

[Photo Credit: Nicole Wood’s Timeless Treasures Photography.]

She Said: Lisa Naylor
Mississauga, ON

Autumn Laing, has an affair with Pat Donlon, both whom happen to be married to other people.  Neither Laing nor Donlon are likeable characters and one wonders what the attraction to each other is, other than their narcissism and total disregard for the impact of their actions on their spouses.  Miller does a brilliant job in creating an adulterous relationship between these two characters that the reader will despise.

Arthur Laing, Autumn’s husband is a likeable character; it is he whom I believe bears the impact of his wife’s indiscretions.  Perhaps a multitude of reasons influence Arthur’s relationship with his wife.  As the reader, I would have chosen an alternative solution to Arthur’s regarding his wife’s affair.

Pat Donlon’s young pregnant wife Edith Black makes a decision with her relationship with her husband very early on in the story.  I applaud her for her decision and think she made the right one.  Although Edith is central to the story her character appears very little, the author does manage to create a very likeable character in Edith.

After many years go by since Autumn and Pat’s affair, Autumn has a brief sighting of Edith Black from afar.  It is at this point that Autumn starts to ponder the effects of her affair and her own remorse.  Now that she is old her conscience has crept up on her.  Autumn by this stage in her life is a miserable old lady; she is cranky to those in contact with her and difficult to get along with.  There are fleeting moments when Autumn feels horrible for what she has done to Edith, but those are, I see, just fleeting thoughts.  As the reader I never believe that Autumn is sorry for anything she done in her life that has caused someone pain.  Nor do I think she is capable of true remorse.

What I like about this book is the notion of remorse.  We all have to live with our behavior towards those around us.  What seems like a good choice at the time may very well be a disaster on ones conscience in the future, especially when life is at the end of the road.  It is a heavy burden to carry but is the price to pay for one’s wrongdoings.  Sometimes it is too late for retribution or forgiveness for ones deeds and these burdens are taken to the grave.

Girl Guides of Canada teaches one to be considerate of others, value one another and hopefully make good decisions throughout life and to be proud responsible person.

— Lisa Naylor writes her own blog: Gentle Angry Blogger: Sparking a Self Esteem Revolution.

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