Holier Than Thou – by Laura Buzo
Holly is in many ways a typical young Australian adult. She did well in school so she could get into Uni, and she has a job she really believes in even though it’s sometimes hard to feel like she’s making a difference. Her main group of friends are busier than ever but will always be there for each other. She shares her very own flat with her very own perfect boyfriend, Tim. And Holly has a painful history, one that’s inevitably shaped who she is today.
In Holier Than Thou, we see snapshots of Holly’s life that have informed who she is today: what’s hurt her, what’s overjoyed her, and what’s stayed with her through the years. Her Dad’s slow decline and death when she was in high school is the basis of Holly becoming a social worker, someone who helps those in impossibly bleak situations. Her friends’ steadfast companionship, which has remained constant through high school, University and beyond means security, understanding and support for Holly no matter what. Her non-relationship with the boy she pined over for too many years is a constant source of introspection, regret and second-guessing. And her current relationships with both Tim and Holly’s work partner Nick continue to provide warmth, comfort and optimism about the future.
Lauren Buzo’s characters are dynamic, with sharp corners and soft underbellies – none more so than Holly. Holly is satisfyingly elaborate, with good intentions, strong viewpoints, inbuilt prejudices and blind spots galore (like all the twenty-somethings I’ve ever met, including myself). Her friends are a wonderful vehicle: calling Holly on her pretensions about herself or others, while always being on her side. Tim, the boyfriend, was a bit flat but the ‘work spouse’ Nick (or “Nicholarse”) makes up for this with his deep and original character.
The pace was languid, introspective and at times felt a little directionless, but not fatally so. I found the ending slightly abrupt, with not enough resolution; but I actually think that was a deliberate and relevant choice, because Holly’s story doesn’t end. She has years of triumph, heartache, joy and pain ahead of her, we’ve just let her go and get on with it. I’d like to think that it all turned out okay in the end, when Holly’s eighty, looking back over everything.
A really interesting novel about what we take with us from our early lives, with a realistic, completely identifiable main character, and a lovely insight.
Have you read any Laura Buzo?