Writer reborn in an inspirational
THE Spruiker’s Tale , Catherine Rey’s first novel translated into English in 2005, was hilarious and ghastly. A farcical gothic western, it is in the same odd tenor as the Australian rococo fantasies of Andrew Lindsay’s The Slapping Man and The Patron Saint of Eels by Gregory Day.
The Spruiker’s Tale took readers on a grim expedition through the Nagalingams, a family of former circus performers living in a shack on the edge of the Gibson Desert. In a strange lexicon that incorporated the mock grandeur of Rabelais, the dogma of the Old Testament and a sprinkling of good old ockerism, it was a novel of seething Oedipal tension and droll grotesquery. This portrait of an amoral world catapulted Catherine Rey on to the Australian literary scene.
Stepping Out is a vastly different creation, in narrative, tone and style. Subtitled A Novel , the ficto-autobiography is an ode, of sorts, to Rey’s youth in France, her escape from the stifling confines of her family and her burgeoning passion for literature and writing.
From infancy, Catherine is raised by her paternal grandparents. At 17, she runs away from home to be with her lover, the older, married Marco. A few years later, when Marco’s divorce comes through, the couple marry.
We never learn much about Marco, a house painter, except that he has old-fashioned expectations of a wife ( it is the 1970s). He likes a clean house and his dinner cooked for him. Initially, Catherine complies with these domestic requirements. Marco shows little interest in her writing; she doesn’t want to talk about it with him. They are, Rey assures us, madly in love.
There is an overall sadness ingrained in this story, a quiet, resigned sense of regret. Catherine