Invented Lives

Andrea Goldsmith

 
Invented Lives
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Invented Lives

Andrea Goldsmith

It is the mid-1980s. In Australia, stay-at-home wives jostle with want-it-all feminists, while AIDS threatens the sexual freedom of everyone. On the other side of the world, the Soviet bloc is in turmoil.

Mikhail Gorbachev has been in power for a year when twenty-four-year-old book illustrator Galina Kogan leaves Leningrad - forbidden ever to return. As a Jew, she’s inherited several generations worth of Russia’s chronic anti-Semitism. As a Soviet citizen, she is unprepared for Australia and its easy-going ways.

Once settled in Melbourne, Galina is befriended by Sylvie and Leonard Morrow, and their adult son, Andrew. The Morrow marriage of thirty years balances on secrets. Leonard is a man with conflicted desires and passions, while Sylvie chafes against the confines of domestic life. Their son, Andrew, a successful mosaicist, is a deeply shy man. He is content with his life and work - until he finds himself increasingly drawn to Galina.

While Galina grapples with the tumultuous demands that come with being an immigrant in Australia, her presence disrupts the lives of each of the Morrows. No one is left unchanged.

Invented Live
s tells a story of exile- exile from country, exile at home, and exile from one’s true self. It is also a story about love.

Review

I read an early draft of Invented Lives a year or so ago; it was almost wonderful then but now it really is wonderful. What I like most about Andrea Goldsmith’s work is that it manages to combine a domestic intensity with big themes. These are stories about people struggling to make sense of their lives, but the forces that impact their lives are much larger than them.

It’s 1985 and Reagan and Gorbachev have met and that meeting is a precursor to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Anti-Semitism is a fact of life for Jews in the USSR and with the thaw, Jews are permitted to apply to emigrate to Israel. Galina and her mother are secular Jews but their ethnicity touches their lives all the time. Shortly before their papers are issued, Galina’s mother dies and, after a chance meeting with a young Australian artist studying in Moscow, she decides to go ahead with the emigration but resolves to go to Australia, not Israel.

Some time after she arrives, she decides that it wouldn’t hurt if she tried to make contact with the Australian. She is drawn into the orbit of his family; superficially comfortable, and settled. As she becomes closer to them, she realises that their lives are not as straightforward as they appear, and that they have secrets and secret desires. Galina, too, has secrets that follow her to her new country.

Goldsmith is a masterful storyteller who explores the complex themes of identity and love in her latest novel. Invented Lives deserves a wide audience.


Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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