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Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
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Invented Lives

by Andrea Goldsmith

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1211,154,091 (4)1
It is the mid-1980s. In Australia, stay-at-home wives jostle with want-it-all feminists, while AIDS threatens everyone's sexual freedom. On the other side of the world, the Soviet bloc is in turmoil. Mikhail Gorbachev has been in power for a year when twenty-four-year-old book illustrator Galina Kogan leaves Leningrad--forbidden ever to return. As a Jew, she's inherited several generations worth of Russia's chronic anti-Semitism. As a Soviet citizen, she is unprepared for Australia and its easy-going ways. Once settled in Melbourne, Galina is befriended by Sylvie and Leonard Morrow, and their adult son, Andrew. The Morrow marriage of thirty years balances on secrets. Leonard is a man with conflicted desires and passions, while Sylvie chafes against the confines of domestic life. Their son, Andrew, a successful mosaicist, is a deeply shy man. He is content with his life and work--until he finds himself increasingly drawn to Galina. While Galina grapples with the tumultuous demands that come with being an immigrant in Australia, her presence disrupts the lives of each of the Morrows. No one is left unchanged. Invented Lives tells a story of exile: exile from country, exile at home, and exile from one's true self. It is also a story about love.… (more)

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It's hard to express the intense pleasure of reading Andrea Goldsmith's new novel, Invented Lives. It's not just that it's an absorbing novel that held my interest from start to finish, it's also a book filled with insights that will stay with me for a long time.

While the central character in Invented Lives is Galina Kagan, a Russian émigré to Melbourne, and the novel focusses on her feelings of loss and not belonging, there are other kinds of exile in the novel. One of the most interesting is that of Sylvie Morrow. This older woman, mother to Andrew Morrow who's fallen in love with Galina, is reminiscent of Philippa Finemore in Goldsmith's Modern Interiors (1991). Like Philippa, Sylvie suffered a kind of exile imposed by her gender, because women of her generation were excluded from full participation in society. She was too young to experience the liberating effects of WW2 on women's work, but in adulthood was just the right age to be relegated to postwar domesticity. And just as Philippa finds widowhood liberating, Sylvie in middle age experiences a different kind of widowhood that opens up new worlds for her long-stifled energies too.

Galina's courage is the catalyst for Sylvie's metamorphosis. It is the 1980s, and Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR have enabled Galina's emigration from Leningrad in the wake of her mother's death. Lidiya had been the sole surviving member of her family, the others having fallen victim to Stalin's Terror. But as secular Jews even under perestroika Lidiya and Galina still had few prospects in anti-Semitic Russia, and they were sceptical of Soviet reforms. So when restrictions on Jewish travel were relaxed, mother and daughter submitted requests to leave, knowing that they were signing over the right to change their minds. When Lidiya dies, the bereft Galina grasps the opportunity anyway, and comes to Melbourne, chosen as her destination because of her chance encounter with Andrew Morrow.

Andrew was in Leningrad to study mosaics when he helped Galina to her feet after she took a tumble on the icy pavement. You'll need to view the slide show on my travel blog to see these stunning mosaics in the Church of Spilled Blood in what is now St Petersburg. But about half way through the novel, Galina and Andrew have a little tiff about the power of art. She's just beginning to forge a career as a children's book illustrator and he's an art academic specialising in mosaics. In a throwaway line that he doesn't really believe, he says that art never saves lives. She, the child of a survivor of the WW2 Siege of Leningrad, knows better. She knows from her mother that inspiring broadcasts of Olga Berggolt's poetry gave hope and that she was a symbol of strength and determination to survive; she knows that Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was written in honour of the besieged city and that its performance by starving musicians gave the city energy instead of despair. Galina knows that Akhmatova's 'Requiem' in the prison lines at the height of Stalin's Terror told people that the world would know of these terrible times, and she knows that people risked their lives to read samizdat in post-Stalinist times because they knew it would make them stronger.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/06/24/invented-lives-by-andrea-goldsmith/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jun 24, 2019 |
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