The Secret Lives of Men

Georgia Blain

The Secret Lives of Men
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The Secret Lives of Men

Georgia Blain

In these thirteen short stories, Georgia Blain examines human nature in all its richness- out motivations, out desires and our shortcomings. The men in these tales frequently linger at the edges - their longings and failures exerting a subterranean pull on the women in their lives. In ‘The Secret Lives of Men’, a woman revisits her hometown and learns a long-held secret about her first boyfriend. In ‘The Bad dog Park’, a man’s devotion to his dog ultimately forces him to confront his true hopes and fears. And in ‘The Other Side of the River’, we watch as a woman makes a snap decision about her life’s future direction, with devastating consequences for her family. Written in Blain’s trademark unadorned yet powerful prose, these stories resonate long after they are finished. ‘A haunting, unsentimental exploration of the vexations and joys of modern life, family, love and desire.’ Kirsten Tranter The Secret Live of Men is an exceptional collection by one of Australia’s leading writers.

Review

In this new collection of 13 stories, Georgia Blain explores the diverse motivations of her male characters. The ‘men’ include fathers, brothers, husbands, soon-to-be-ex-husbands, partners, ex-boyfriends and lovers. In ‘Escape’, a young man being pursued by police tells his pregnant teenage girlfriend, ‘I can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep running.’ This could be true of most of the men in these delicately nuanced stories.

In ‘The Bad Dog Park’, a widowed man is trapped by inertia, as well as a sense of being beholden to his long-deceased wife, his heroin-addicted daughter and his sick dog. One day, when out dog walking, he encounters a woman. The meeting holds the possibility of starting to enjoy life again, but he doesn’t know if he can make the changes necessary to begin anew.

In ‘Murramarang’, three couples holiday together with their children. When one of the marriages ends, the next holiday with the five adults is fractious and difficult. Friendships and relationships unravel, revealing the complex dynamics of couplings, attractions and jealousies. Like around half the stories in The Secret Lives of Men, it is told from a female perspective, giving insight into the roles both genders play within relationships.

Blain also writes beautifully about the Australian landscape. One of the aspects of the collection that remains in my mind is the distinct locations she evokes – the seaside, the bland suburb a father refers to as ‘Dullsville’, country towns and caravan parks. Even in the stories set overseas, visual memories of Australia loom large.

These stories are among the best I have read recently. Georgia Blain is an accomplished writer (this is her seventh book). The Secret Lives of Men will appeal to fans of Cate Kennedy and Alice Munro, and it’s also a good choice for book groups wanting to discuss a themed collection.

Annie Condon is the convenor of a Readings’ Contemporary Book Club.

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