AWWNYRC#10: Duet by Kimberley Freeman

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*.

Duet

by Kimberley Freeman

Hachette, 2007, ISBN: 978 0 7336 2177 2

duet by kimberley freemanWhen 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:

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Hachette joins the open season for manuscript submissions

UPDATE: a list of major publishers accepting unagented submissions in on the website!

Hachette Australia has joined the ranks of legacy publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Unlike its contemporaries, it has not restricted when submissions can be sent, and promises a three-week response (or rejection by non-response) for fiction, non-fiction and children’s. They’ll look at the first chapter or 50 pages; non-fic needs a chapter breakdown. Sorry, poets: no joy for you.

Others accepting submissions: Penguin’s Monthly Catch on the first week of each month; Pan Macmillan’s Manuscript Monday and its e-only arm Momentum’s Momentum Monday; and Allen & Unwin’s long-running Friday Pitch.

Writing notes, and a nod to Ego Likeness

It’s one of those windy, now rainy and chilly, days in old Melbourne town, and I’ve been tapping away at adding new flesh to old bones fuelled by copious amounts of coffee and the new album by the superb Ego Likeness. The clip is of a tune from the album, Breedless, distinctive and easy on the ears while the rain patters on the roof.

  • Emerging writers might like to check out the awesome manuscript workshop collaboration between the Queensland Writers Centre and Hachette Livre which is now open.
  • Like some passion with those fangs? Ticonderoga Publications want your paranormal romance short story for their follow-up anthology, More Scary Kisses.
  • On a sad note, Australian small press Brimstone reports it won’t be publishing Australian Dark Horror and Fantasy 4, nor will it be continuing with the series.
  • But in good news, Ben Payne has released issue 1 of his new, free, online mag, Moonlight Tuber.
  • Right then. Back to the bones.