BOOK REVIEW / Double jeopardy: The favourite - Meredith Daneman

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
ROSA'S father adored his middle daughter. That's no crime. He was not an abuser, but then in the Forties in middle-class Sydney, incest was something that only happened rarely in remote agricultural communities. He was a dedicated adulterer and, like Germaine Greer's father, a bit of a fraud. These gallant men who papered over their own cracks with charm and seduced their daughters with the angle of their jaunty hats and their humorous attention didn't know what they were storing up for their fiercely passionate offspring.

Rosa, who cries for him in the night, is doomed to the treadmill of repetition. She marries and eggs on her husband to repeat the pattern. For although they do everything together like Siamese twins, he finally lets her jealous hypothesis have its way. 'I have come, in some sinister way, into my inheritance. This is the world as I always knew it to be, vigorous with betrayal and that tranquillity I once had, five minutes ago, was a trance he rocked me into, a dummy he kept in my mouth . . .' She suffers the full drama of rejection, even racing after him holding up their baby as blackmail as he drives away in fascinated view of the neighbours.

Meredith Daneman's prose rises far above the sticky in-therapy moan as her narrator treads fearlessly down the slippery slopes of the Electra complex. 'They talk a lot these days about the lust men feel for their daughters. But they forget the nature of a little girl's love for her father. Its bright innocence. Its dark passion.'

How this passion moves Rosa throughout her life is charted forcefully, but how her sisters react, or what's really going on in the stoic mother, or why her husband bolts back after bolting, or the feel of the place, are scarcely touched upon. This otherwise admirable little book has a claustrophobic feel, with too much of the carbon-dioxide of self-analysis.