by Bridgid Lowry
Published by Allen & Unwin
197 pages, 2007
Sad Songs and Blue Marbles
Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski
Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful is a collection of short stories, poems and autobiographical pieces written by Brigid Lowry, a Kiwi writer of young adult fiction who spent many years in Australia and has returned to New Zealand. It is illustrated and decorated. The fact that the author has lived both in Australia and New Zealand shows up in the mixture. About half of the stories were written and first published while she was living in Australia, and so take place there.
Many of the stories are followed by vaguely appropriate poems.
It is, as suggested by the cover blurb and the introduction, that the book is aimed at the girl “with the dodgy sense of humour, for the girl who likes sad songs and blue marbles, the one whose dog just got run over by a car and the one whose cat just had kittens....” I assume this means the book is for all girls, but am not sure that is quite accurate. More of this presently.
Some of the stories are centred around teenagers. “A Green Sari and a Pocketful of Stars" is about girls whose mother goes off to “find herself,” leaving them with their artist father. “Moving Out” is about a girl who wants to move out, but only as far as a Bedford house-truck given to her by a relative. In “Poppy Goes Shopping” a girl sees what a department store is like after closing, or so it seems. “How to Mend a Broken Heart” is on the theme of breaking up with your boyfriend.
Many other pieces are seen from an adult viewpoint, though mostly, I suspect, the autobiographical ones, but not entirely.
The author is well-known for funny, sad, gentle novels for teenagers. She does them beautifully but, despite the cover blurb and the enthusiastic endorsements from teenage girls on the cover, this book is not aimed entirely at young adults. Half of the stories here are reprints of pieces written for literary magazines which are, let’s face it, published with an adult market in mind. In some tales, an adult reminisces about her teen years, but does it as an adult. Some of them are about adult problems such as divorce. In my experience, kids like to read about characters close to their own age, unless they are genre fans, who read adult books from an early age.
The stories and poems in this collection are beautifully written, some with a genuine touch of whimsy, all are stamped with the author’s trademark gentleness. They make fairly easy reading in that they are not too long and are decorated with drawings and flowers. However, there isn’t a lot of substance or much in the way of storyline about most of them.
Possibly the closest to the kind of story that might make a teenager think is “Palm Trees and Flash Hotels” in which a girl has to decide whether to stick with what’s left of her family or travel overseas to where there are “palm trees and flash hotels” as a prostitute, with a pushy housemate who can’t see past the travel and the tropical climate to what would be asked of her in exchange.
I suspect that the enthusiastic girls who endorse the book on the back cover are good readers who enjoy a challenge; the question is whether this book is suitable for average readers who just want a story or two about love and friendship and such stuff. | September 2007
Sue Bursztynski is the author of several children's books, including the CBC Notable Book Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science and Your Cat Could Be A Spy. Her fiction has been published in various SF magazines. She publishes two blogs, a general one at http://greatraven.blogspot.com and a review/SF blog at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com. She lives in Australia.