Simon & Schuster AU
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Five women who have been friends for decades meet once a month to talk books and life. All of them hail from Mudgee in New South Wales and now live and work in Brisbane. All of them have always been very up front with each other, dissecting each other’s lives and problems over a meal and a drink. However now each of them women are harbouring secrets, things that they feel they can’t talk to the group about or things they don’t want to recognise yet.
Izzy has worked hard to establish her career and she’s about to become the first Black woman with her own televison show. However as she gets this offer of a lifetime, something totally unexpected happens that changes everything.
Izzy’s sister-in-law Nadine is white but married to a Black man. She’s a successful author who writes crime books and leaves the running of the house to her capable husband. Lately Nadine’s fondness for a drop has been going a little too far and the crates of wine are all that gets her through the day.
Veronica married young and dedicated her life to raising her three beautiful boys. Now they’re all grown up and leaving home, forging their own lives and her husband has moved on as well. Veronica has never been alone before and she’s feeling worthless and not coping with it very well.
Xanthe is trying to have a baby with her perfect husband Spencer although after some time of trying, they haven’t had any luck. Conceiving a baby becomes Xanthe’s life – charting temperature, recording ovulation, scheduling sex. She becomes so obsessed that she fails to see how difficult it is becoming for her husband.
Ellen has never tied herself down to a man and has no desire to ever have children. She has her career and she takes care of herself and there are men that are happy to step in whenever she feels an itch. However then she meets a man that she could truly care for and begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong decision in not choosing a permanent partner before. Has she been missing out?
As each of the secrets are revealed, relationships in the group begin to fracture and distances spring up. Can their monthly get togethers discussing books heal the rifts and repair the bonds of sisterhood?
Tiddas is an Aboriginal term that loosely means “sisters” and can be used for friends that are as close as sisters. In this book, of the five core characters, three are Aboriginal, one is white and married to an Aboriginal and the other is a white woman but one who has an empathetic connection to the Aboriginal people and their plight, most probably due to both her friendships with the Aboriginal women in the group and also her caring nature. All of the women are from Mudgee in NSW and are in their late 30s, pushing 40. They’ve all ended up in Brisbane for different reasons and their friendship has always stayed tight, even through their changing lives…. until now.
I love so much about this book – definitely love that the core of the book is the women meeting for bookclub and discussing the book of the month. A lot of the books revolve around Aboriginal stories or issues and I’ve read several of them and noted a few more for my TBR list. As quite obviously, a majority of the characters are Aboriginal or connected to Aboriginals, there’s a lot of discussion of Aboriginal issues, both in a national way and also in a much more intimate personal way, such as the role of women within the family group and the community tribe. Both Izzy and Nadine have somewhat different roles that are not traditional. Nadine is a white woman and one who works as the main breadwinner for the family. Her husband, a Black man works part time but also maintains the household: getting the children ready for school and attending any functions, which Nadine cannot bear, cooking, cleaning, etc. Izzy is a sort-of single woman about to embark on an amazing career opportunity only to discover that life has different plans for her. She needs to adjust to that and also think about how to break the news to several people that are very important to her.
The format of exploring issues through friends discussing them is one that always works for me. I think it’s a great way to get an issue out there to a reader because it really lessens the feeling of being preached to. I enjoyed how supportive of each other the women were and especially throughout the wider community at events they attended that were important or celebratory in some way for Aboriginal people. Likewise the scene where they all return to Mudgee for an event gave me a lot of insight into Aboriginal families and dynamics, something that I hadn’t really experienced before. Most books I’ve read featuring Aboriginal characters or issues are historical – I haven’t read much about modern Aboriginal life so I did find that aspect of it quite interesting.
Tiddas is a very enjoyable story, one that pulls the reader in to the tight friendship these women have, albeit not one without flaws. However the characters are well drawn, the flaws well written and believable. There’s a warmth to the story, in the way that the characters interact and I think all of the dynamics are done very well. Anita Heiss has a strong voice on issues and I think she’s found quite a good way to express some of them here.
Book #53 of 2014
Tiddas is book #19 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.