This is the tenth book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge, which completes the exercise, though probably won’t be the last to fit the category this year*.
Hachette, 2007, ISBN: 978 0 7336 2177 2
When the author of Duet — her first entry into the world of the depressingly named women’s literature field as a writer — announced the sale, she told me I’d hate this book. I bought it anyway, taking confidence in the fact Kim’s fantastical work was consummate and, besides, Hachette had whacked a ‘love this book or your money back’ sticker on the front.
That offer has no doubt expired by now, but it doesn’t matter, because I didn’t hate Duet. It was, however, an eye-opener.
This is the genre of the big tell, it seems, with motivations and feelings writ large — this is the genre of emotion, after all. And what a rollercoaster it is.
Two women who look so very much alike — one English, one German — share a false identity that propels them both into the spotlight, where both discover that fame and even fortune don’t deliver on their promise.
Angie, born poor and living rough, is discovered by music producer George who crafts her a pop career in the 1970s. It’s not so much sex, drugs and rock’n'roll as just the prescription pills, exacerbated by an abduction.
As Angie goes into rehab, George has had the good luck to stumble across Ellie, Angie’s lookalike with a brilliant set of operatic pipes, who is more than happy to escape rural poverty for a shot at the bigtime as Angie’s doppelganger.
The path to the charts has been anything but smooth for both women, but more setbacks are in store for all involved. There’s amnesia, marriage of convenience, thwarted love, all revolving around a slowly unveiled family secret that both destroys and resurrects.
Watching the characters manoeuvred through the various stages of life to finally arrive at the climax is a pleasure, as each change of fortune sets them up for the next with all the assuredness of dominoes.
There’s a little sparkle to enliven the text, too, thanks to phrases such as ‘the Seine dreaming of the ocean’, and some delightful springboards to end chapters as the mystery of the duo’s past unfolds.
Set against exotic backdrops in Europe as well as an isolated Greek island and the Australian coast and outback, it’s a global tour of ambition, regret and desire. This is a romance, so of course true love will out, but it’s all about the how. I was a little disappointed at just how neatly the boxes were ticked off by the final page, even if there were casualties along the way, but I am a cynical non-breeder so that disappointment should be expected.
While Duet is certainly outside my usual reading ground, I quite enjoyed this dip into the unfamiliar, thanks in large part to the twists and especially the Gothic influences to kept me interested.
* The final 10 has turned out a little different to the plan. C’est la vie.
Previous Challenge reviews:
- Black Glass, by Meg Mundell, science fiction.
- Debris, by Jo Anderton, fantasy.
- The Resurrectionists, by Kim Wilkins, horror.
- Sea Hearts, by Margo Lanagan, fantasy.
- Burn Bright, by Marianne de Pierres, fantasy.
- The Courier’s New Bicycle, by Kim Westwood, fantasy.
- The Road, by Catherine Jinks, horror
- The Shattered City, by Tansy Rayner Roberts, fantasy.
- Frantic, by Katherine Howell, crime.