Review Blog

Apr 14 2009

Love without hope by Rodney Hall. Read by Rodney Hall

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Louis Braille Audio, 2007. ISBN 9780732033316. 6 CDs.
(Age 16-Adult) Highly recommended. What joy to listen to a wonderful story read by the author. You know that every nuance, every emphasis on different words, is exactly what the author wants you to hear.
Imagine if you were sane and committed to a mental institution where no one will listen to you and there is no hope of leaving? A powerful story of an aging eccentric, Lorna Shoddy, who after a devastating bushfire killed some of her beloved horses, becomes depressed and to outsiders appears as if she cannot properly look after herself. After an altercation with some of the townswomen, Mrs Shoddy is committed to a mental institution where she is treated appallingly by a sadistic orderly called Vernon and disregarded by the Master of Lunacy because she has no close relatives to stand up for her. A corrupt dealer sells her farm on the pretext of taxes not paid. Eventually Mrs Shoddy manages to escape with the help of the local alcoholic doctor and finally reaches her farm for a devastating finale to her story.
With subtle variations in tone, Rodney Hall's deep voice brings out the meaning of each phrase and idea in all its richness. This is such a well-paced story by a twice-winner of the Miles Franklin Award, exploring eccentricity and the fear that difference engenders in very conventional people, the nature of love and ageing and the pull that the land has for some people.
I will never forget the opening chapters of this book, the powerful impact of the reading and the way that I empathised with the sane but depressed Lorna Shoddy. The fear that this reading engendered about how easy it was to be institutionalised and the horrors of being powerless will remain in the back of my mind for a long time.
Intelligent senior students could use it in a study of mental illness and individualism, as well as what being institutionalised means.
Pat Pledger

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