The Tower Mill by James Moloney
UQP, 2012. ISBN 9780702249327.
Set in Brisbane, James Moloney's adult novel revolves around the political rally by young demonstrators at the Tower Mill against the visit of the Springboks South African Rugby team to Australia in 1971.
The story begins in 2003 with Tom and his Dad on a flight back to Brisbane from London, but as the narrative moves between Tom and his mother, Susan Kinnane, we learn how Tom arrived at this point. Tom is flying with his Dad to his other Dad's funeral in Brisbane and we soon learn that the woman he calls Mum is not Susan. There are two fathers and two mothers in Tom's life; Terry Stoddard and Susan, his biological parents, Mike Riley and his wife Lyn, who have brought up Tom. Susan is already pregnant with Tom in 1971 when Terry is brain damaged from injuries sustained in the demonstration against the Springbok tour.
The rally against apartheid takes the reader back to the early 1970s when university students were active politically and demonstrated against such political oppression and the Vietnam War. It was also a time of arguing for equal pay for equal work, for women's right to choose, for decriminalisation of abortion and to choose tertiary education and a career over motherhood. When Terry's injuries leave him permanently disabled and incapacitated, Susan wants an abortion but coming from a Catholic family at this time in history, this is not a possibility. Mike Riley loves Susan and marries her, fully aware that he is not the father. The marriage doesn't last and when Tom is three, Susan makes the choice to stay in Sydney to study and Mike takes Tom back to Brisbane, where he continues to provide love, care and a home for the child he considers his son.
The story of Tom and Susan's precarious relationship is told through the double narrative during the long flight to Australia. We are taken back in time and reminded of the changes, both political and social, that have occurred in the intervening years. The novel is beautifully written and well deserves a place on the school library shelves, although the students may classify it as 'historical fiction'!