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The Apricot Colonel by Marion Halligan
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The Apricot Colonel

by Marion Halligan

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Transferring the books on my spreadsheet to Goodreads - one thing I do remember though is that I hated the lack of punctuation - I gritted my teeth through the whole book!!!
  sally906 | Apr 3, 2013 |
This was first posted at my blog: http://ifnotread.wordpress.com/

I read Marian Halligan’s latest collection of short stories Shooting The Fox and I was eager to read her other works. I couldn’t imagine her writing anything I didn’t like (no pressure, Marian).

The Apricot Colonel‘s narrator is Cassandra, a young woman, single, an editor who lives in O’Connor, Canberra, lover of sauvignon blanc and dictionaries. The story is set in 2003 and very much a sign of the times as it begins with the Canberra bush fires.

Cassandra meets the ever-mysterious Colonel Al Marriott, the ‘Apricot Colonel’ for business reasons. He wants her to look over his memoir of his experience in the Gulf. During this time, Canberra has a killer among them and the connections to Cassandra leaves her feeling unsafe and paranoid. The relationship between her and the colonel is murky from the start and you sense an instant chemistry.

Giving Cassandra the occupation of editor gave Halligan freedom to write some delicious insight:
"I know the literary fascisti tell us that’s where post-modern truth lies, in the memoir. Ho ho. If you want true confessions, give me a novel any day…a novelist can’t hide the way a memoirist can."

Cassandra tells us of her other editing jobs, one being a GAN – the Great Australian Novel:
“I reckon this brilliant but flawed work is its creator’s swansong…In the Middle Ages they believed that there was nothing perfect beneath the moon, and so do I. We live in a sublunary and mutable world which breaks our hearts and yet still provides the only occasions of bliss we will ever know.”

Halligan’s writing is a subtle touch, exactly the reason I enjoyed Shooting The Fox. There is a undercurrent of feminine sexuality; Cassandra is indecisiveness on which gender she prefers her partners to be. A friend introduces her to Dermot, handsome, lawyer, ticks all the boxes. He initially seems very keen on her but Cassandra is not always convinced, being too savvy a woman:

"…Dermot excused himself and went out, coming back with a street directory of Canberra. Just checking I know the way to Cleo’s, he said.
Haven’t you been there before?
Oh, yes, but you can’t be too careful. You know the old Canberra torturous streets.
I refrained from saying, You mean tortuous. I do know how smart girls should behave."

The relationship between Cassandra and her mother was especially enjoyable to read. When her mother meets the colonel for the first time, she is instantly flirtatious, Cassandra noting “I feel my status rising in my mother’s eyes, at the same time as my spirits fall.” Cassandra asks after her new beau:

"So, George’s nice, I said, knowing she wouldn’t say otherwise.
Of course darling. Quite gorgeous. Would I if he weren’t?
There’s a silence after this, as if even she has heard what she said, and remembered that her men are always gorgeous at the beginning and monsters at the finish."

As I was enjoying this book, I was thinking of the quote from Ramona Koval beneath the blurb stating this book “is Halligan at her light-hearted best.” I thought it strange to call it light-hearted – until I hit three-quarters of the way through.

A dream sequence followed by descriptions of paintings (I prefer the visual to the text) and then it ends with a very Murder, She Wrote sequence – much like Jessica Fletcher summarising how she identified the murderer.

The Apricot Colonel is a light-hearted tale, with a shot of murder and mystery. Halligan’s writing is exceptional despite the fact that I was a little disappointed with its ending. Halligan’s exploration of character was delightful and something that I believe any writer can learn from. ( )
  ifnotread | Mar 31, 2013 |
I loved this one. It's a murder mystery set in Canberra, with recognisable places and people. It's always fun to feel part of things - Cliff Hardy's Sydney is another example.

There's humour, food, books, and a little romance. The writing style is gentle and charming; the plot is nicely complex without being too hard to follow. I picked a couple of twists, but there were still some some good surprises. I particularly enjoy the detail that many of the characters are non-standard sexually, and this is just ordinary and OK, not some big drama. ( )
  cajela | Jan 16, 2011 |
Fun to read but very forgetable. ( )
  michdubb | Oct 29, 2010 |
A good read with enough light tension to make the story interesting. Edgy prose. I like Marion Halligan's style.
[Pam] ( )
  pam.furney | Oct 15, 2007 |
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AU Author. A beautiful man, and all she can do is tinker with his prose ... For Cassandra, an editor, books are easy. It's real life that's the challenge: it doesn't sit quietly and let itself be fixed. Right now Cassandra's life seems far too heavy on the suspense, while the romance is distinctly unconvincing. But that was before the murders started. And before she suspected that her own name was on the killer's hit list ... Murder, match-making and the dark arts of book editing.… (more)

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