As bushfires rage outside the city, three women watch a performance of a Beckett play.
Margot is a successful professor, preoccupied by her fraught relationship with her ailing husband.
Ivy is a philanthropist with a troubled past, distracted by the snoring man beside her.
Summer is a young theatre usher, anxious about the safety of her girlfriend in the fire zone.
As the performance unfolds, so does each woman’s story. By the time the curtain falls, they will all have a new understanding of the world beyond the stage.
Thanks so much to Elizabeth Allen for sending me this proof copy of The Performance and my apologies for not reading it sooner – apologies and regret as the moment I started this snappy work of fiction I was enthralled by the writing, the 3 women and their stories. A unique and original story told entirely during a performance of the Samuel Beckett play, ‘Happy Days‘. Confession time, I have not read any Samuel Beckett so while I enjoyed this novel I suspect those familiar with this play would get much more from the book than I did. But essentially while a woman is slowly being consumed by a mound of earth on stage, 3 women watch, consumed by their own thoughts.
Preoccupied throughout the performance, Summer is desperately concerned for her girlfriend whose parents live in the hills where fires are blazing. Margot is harbouring a troubling secret about her marriage, something incompatible with her outward persona, feeling her age as a woman she is frustrated also with expectations on her. Ivy inherited a significant sum of money, she is at the theatre as a benefactor, but she is not without her troubles and sadnesses.
The insight offered into the lives of these 3 women, information that was private and thus only known to the reader made for an interesting read. The women were linked and the interval offered an opportunity for them to interact. This novel was a very quick read – a short book at under 300 pages I read it in a day and found myself absorbed in their stories. That said, not a lot happens, they watch a play and leave, the fires still burn and nothing is resolved or solved. Their lives go on, as the reader we don’t know what happens next. So it is with admiration that I state my like for this novel. I am in no doubt that this nuanced tale will offer different readers varied literary experiences, as suggested earlier the Beckett play will resonate with those familiar with the work and I am sure there were subtleties here that I missed.
But I liked it and I think anyone interested in the lives of women; the female experience, could also enjoy this novel. It reminded me a bit of Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, (review here) but without the emphasis on sexuality, or perhaps Love in Five Acts by Daniela Krien (reviewed here), but in a more abbreviated form. It worked for me, what do you think does The Performance appeal to you? Have you read it?
Thanks as always for reading.
About the Author
Claire Thomas is a Melbourne writer. Her acclaimed first novel was Fugitive Blue, which won the Dobbie Award for Women Writers, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Claire holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne where she teaches literary studies and creative writing.