Reviews – Life Song
Singer and performer
Having read both In And Out Of Step and Life Song, I have to say that I am not only impressed with these beautifully rounded, believable characters, but also with Christine Knight’s thorough and tenacious pursuit of authentic detail. In Life Song, Christine shows so well has the mix of personalities, egos, fears and aspirations that make up the complex collective that is a “band”. From the performers, agents, and management all the way through to the roadies, Life Song takes me straight back to my performing days in the 80’s and 90’s.
As a singer who began to perform professionally after having two children, subsequently leaving my first husband, and making a life for my children without any support from him, I completely relate to Mavis’s struggle. Following your heart is very difficult when there is an undertone of guilt [particularly relating to children]. These constant struggles between the need for individuality and the need to belong in the family unit can be confusing and occasionally heartbreaking. I have loved watching how Mavis deals with all of this.
Christine has a rare ability to “tell it like it is”, and yet, leave you with a sense of moving forward with hope.
This beautifully descriptive book with its consistency of characters and even of geographic place, leaves one with an intimate relationship that I, for one, wouldn’t want to lose. In fact, I can’t wait to see what happens next!?
Victorian Writers’ Centre; The Wheeler Centre Victoria
‘Christine M Knight’s second novel Life Song is a joyfully triumphant confection that resonates with layers of interest. It is the sort of story that one reads again, by turns it is both comforting and a road story. It displays a marked use of dialogue to frame up the comedy of manners and shifts in perception that characters portray. The plot is compelling in its evocation of a particular period in the history of the Australian music industry and band life and applies a collection of songs deserving of its own accompanying CD.
Christine’s novels (especially this one) deliver positive and reassuring messages about give and take, listening, taking responsibility, and acceptance of differing lifestyles.
The author again demonstrates her ability to frame the core of her novel’s conflict in imagery – for example, the tug-of-war at the opening of this novel – and she also has the ability to plunge the reader into the microcosm of place. Who would not want to return to Mavis’ home town?
Set in the rural town of Keimera, in the coastline that runs like a ribbon between Melbourne (Victoria) and Sydney (NSW), the underlying vista supporting Life Song emerges as bright as a Rupert Bunny painting. The long march of the youth of rural townships to bigger cities has only just begun in this coastal community. It is a rural town going through a stage of rejuvenation with Tree Changers as well as the rebuilding and shifting further in that occurs after bush fires. Into this totally beguiling, wryly humorous, quiet community comes Mavis Mills.
Mavis’ struggle is not the plight of being a single mother but centres on her wish to be in charge of her life, captain of her creativity, and create a better life for her son and herself. Mavis’ situation as a single mother breadwinner in a challenging and not well-paid job will resonate with many women as will her ambition and work to achieve a better life. The novel explores the assumptions that families and social groups of all ages hold about the legitimacy that women claim when pursuing a career path in their chosen field once they have become mothers. Mavis’ story is about reinvention and triumphing against the odds. It is a celebration of the power of belief in one’s self and of friends and of supporters.
In Life Song, the male characters are as diverse and complex as the females. The narrative explores the need of many women and men to enter into a fully functional dialogue. The connection between Gary (as a lead character) and Mavis is complex, far truer to the realities of friendships between thinking people. The author displays this layering of feeling and connection subtly.
In terms of its chick-lit appeal, Life Song ticks all the boxes. It is a blend of wry humour and vivid storytelling. The outcome is satisfying without being cloying. It has sizzle but no awkward sex scenes to navigate. The story can be read as an adventure with a wonderfully, funny, visual narrating style. It can also be reflected on as a snapshot of a period in the recent past, a time when life was undergoing significant change for women and men.
The story is bound to become a discussion and debate catalyst. Simply by placing the choices of creativity in tandem with child rearing will place it in a similar field to Tsiolkas’ ‘The Slap’. In this reader’s opinion, the deeper aspects of the story combined with the backdrop of the community would provide a solid basis as a treatment for a TV series.
This is the sort of novel that delights on a day when the sofa calls. If it had food (apart from the party foods at the Mills’ Christmas ‘do’), Life Song would be perfect.
In the words of Ian Molly Meldrum, ‘Do yourself a favour and go out and buy it.’