There’s a point on Jindarra street where you crest the hill and suddenly the city skyline appears on the horizon. Even on hazy days you can see the figures of the buildings, straight and tall, taking more than is their due. Far from the quiet desperation of Elizabethtown. Not so quiet at times.
When I crest that hill I always think of Lara and Daniel, high up in Governor Phillip Tower, seated in the offices of their respective firms. Then I draw a line south across the city, passing Tim’s office near Central Station, down to Abigail at St George Hospital. I extend the line west, pausing to glance down toward Canberra where I think Liam and his girlfriend are still living, and then link them all back to me in Elizabethtown – Befftown – where Nick and I are hurtling alone Jindarra Street in the work car.
Holly is a social worker in inner Sydney. She is teamed with Nick, a nurse and together they make visits to sick and addicted people in the community. Holly works in community health where funds are always being squeezed and burnout is high. So it’s good that she has a loving partner and good friends to give her balance in her life. Even if some of her friends have sold their souls to work for the corporate dollar. Holly is carrying her own troubles so deep that she hardly recognises what it is that’s so unsettling her. Slowly, her past bubbles to the surface, robbing her of happiness and sleep, pulling her backwards.
The title, Holier Than Thou, is a play on Holly’s name, and the name her colleague Nick uses. It’s a reference to her passion to help others and her fiercely-held ideologies. She most wants to help those who have no resources, financial or emotional to help themselves. She wants to fix the world. Since she was a child, that’s what she’s wanted. Holly tells her own story, gradually revealing snippets of her past that may not be finished with. In particular, she focuses on a boy who was a friend but who now seems lost to her and to their other friends. She’s sure she can fix the pass. There are themes of love and loss, friendship and lust. A great read set in contemporary Sydney.
Holier Than Thou, Laura Buzo
Allen& Unwin 2012
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author