Wednesday, August 22, 2012

[Review] Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Author: Laura Buzo
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 01/05/2012
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 290
Source: For review

Violence Sexual ContentProfanity

My Rating:

My thoughts:

My, oh my, was this review difficult to write! Holier Than Thou is a new adult title and written by Aussie author Laura Buzo, and for that alone I should have breezed through this novel without a problem. However, the topics explored in Holier Than Thou felt even more substantial than those in Good Oil (debut). Which made it sometimes difficult to read, and even harder to organise my thoughts. It actually took weeks for me to finally solidify exactly how I feel for this book – I read this book in May! – but I can firmly say that I deeply recommend this book.

Holly Yarkov is a social worker, 24 years old, with problems of her own. She’s ticked off all the boxes for the transition into adulthood: an apartment, a job, a live-in boyfriend . . . independence. But the past is haunting her. Her once good friend and almost lover, Liam. Her beloved father, who Holly had always felt most connected to in the family, died by the hands of the Big C. Holly, who has always held herself in higher esteem than others, who is perceptive and insightful, and will do no wrong . . . working in mental health is emotionally draining; her only reprieve is the ridiculously appealing RN in dreadlocks, Nick. But she’s with Tim.

Relationships are such an integral part of a young adult’s life. I think Buzo explores the struggles in that transition from adolescence to adulthood really well. During high school and uni Holly had a close-knit group of friends who spent every day together. Now that graduation has rolled past, and so have the years, it’s hard to stick together. Especially when every other aspect of your life is changing. The flashbacks that Holly divulges to us felt so familiar to me. The bittersweet feeling never truly goes away, and this book is full of those feelings.

There is the huge mess that is Holly’s love life. I can’t even begin to summarise what went on in Holly’s head since it seems that she couldn’t even figure it out. All you need to know at this point is that there are three guys: Liam who haunts her past, Nick who she cannot deny her growing lust for, and her serious boyfriend Tim who she has doubts about.

Then there’s family. The presence of Holly’s father pervades the narrative, and its plain to see how deeply affected by his death Holly is. We also see how her mother was affected, and how in comparison Holly has always had to be the strong one. Flashbacks with her dad got really emotional at times and even though I don’t have a similar experience to draw true empathy from, I felt it. The trauma that Holly went through – not only in trying not to lose it herself, but also in trying to keep her whole family apart in her father’s physical absence – was truly palpable.

As for Holly’s character, while I admired her characteristics (kind of) and was able to get into her head most of the time, she didn’t completely connect with me. She’s intelligent and has her own set of morals that she holds herself and all others to; she’s sarcastic and witty; she thinks a lot and is perceptive about the world around her and of her settlement into adulthood but … I just didn’t find her that likeable a character.

Another point of address is the ending. IT IS PACKED. Holly finally comes to terms with a lot of the issues she has been mulling over, but there’s this open-endedness that just left me unsatisfied and wanting more. I feel like her story isn’t over yet, which is EXACTLY how I felt with Amelia in Good Oil. If you normally like your stories with complete closure, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I think the cover is perfect for this book. It's kind of plain, but the simplicity of it speaks louder than any special effects could. I do believe this is crossover, and is marketable as such. And yes, this story is so darned bittersweet.
Laura Buzo has gone straight up to my favourite authors list. The thing about her books, for me, is that I don’t enjoy them. Her books play like sad songs, beautiful and melancholy songs that lift you up by the ears and throw you headfirst into pouring rain. Holier Than Thou is life. It will make you think, if will make you laugh, it will make you cry.


First lines: "There's a point on Jindarra Street where you crest the hill and suddenly the city skyline appears on the horizon. Even on hazy days you can see the figures of the buildings, straight and tall, taking more than is their due. Far from the quiet desperation of Elizabethtown. Not so quiet at times."


’Remember the field of poppies in between the scary forest and the city of Oz?’ I asked.
‘I’d love to lie down in it.’
‘Doesn’t it make you fall asleep and never wake up?’
‘Oh, yeah. Shit.’

(p. 127)
I would say her ‘uninspiring’ managerial style, but she did in fact inspire us. To anger.

(pp. 164)
I didn’t like being a grown-up. I wanted to go back to uni and sit around with Liam all day and all night, drinking beer and watching Star Trek, walking the streets at night thick as thieves and singing the same songs.

(p. 281)
It was all coming together. How debilitating and raw her grief had been for the years after his death, how she’d ‘given in’ to it, as I had not with what I had thought as stoicism. And there she was nine years later, having her house painted, sweeping the tiles, gardening, listening to their music with happy memories. Whereas I … I was finding out that steel corrodes, like everything else. That things follow you from adolescence to adulthood.

(p. 284 - spoilers)


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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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