Pat was never deep. He was intuitive, but he was not deep. It was I who was deep. I who was left on my own to struggle with the fearful knots and tangles of our vicious web, while he sailed on on clean air, free of self-doubt, painting his pictures as if they were his alone to paint.
As Autumn Laing reaches the final months of her long life, she thinks back to the man she loved fifty-three years ago. From her first meeting with struggling artist Pat Donlon, Autumn was determined to make a difference to his life – but at the same time turned both of their lives upside down. Falling into an affair, Autumn not only tarnishes her previous stable, happy marriage, but Pat, too, destroys his new marriage, losing his wife and unborn child. As she waits to die, Autumn remembers her time with Pat. Now a cantankerous d woman, she seeks some sort of redemption in writing down the story.
Told using a blend of first person narrative (both present and past tense) and third person narrative (with Autumn recounting events as she imagines they may have happened in her absence) this is much more than a story of an affair, being more an examination of truth, and how it is constructed. Autumn may be cranky and downright unpleasant, but there is something very likeable about her, making you want to know more about her both as she was and is she is now, an old woman trying to tell her tale before she dies.
Inspired by, but only partly based on, artist Sidney Nolan and his muse Sunday Reed, Autumn Laing is a rich, intense tale.
Autumn Laing, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.