|Courtesy of Penguin|
Inspired by the legendary music of Glenn Miller and the big band jazz of the 1940s, In the Mood by Laura Bloom tackles love and life in post-war Sydney.
In the Mood
The novel opens in 1946 with Robert Brooker returning home from the battlefields of New Guinea to a wife he hasn’t see for three years.
His letters home to Catherine have trickled to nothing by 1944 and out of sheer despair, loneliness and the fear that her husband is never coming home, she finds herself drunk on illicit gin amongst US Marines on the streets of Sydney’s King’s Cross.
Totally out of character, Catherine gets herself into trouble in more ways than one. She is rescued by an American named Lewis and they begin an intense affair that takes her away from her day-to-day life and the endless waiting for the war to be over.
When Robert returns home unannounced he is physically unharmed but mentally scarred by the horrors he has witnessed. The couple try to pick up the pieces from where they left off before the war began but they are both harbouring secrets that have changed them to the core.
In the Mood shifts between the period Robert is away at war and the period when he has returned, giving the reader an appreciation of a marriage under strain in both wartime and post-war “normalcy”.
In the Mood Theme
One of the themes that Bloom has addressed in the novel is the contrast between what is shown on the outside and what goes on just below the surface.
In an interview with Alan Gold in Good Reading Magazine, June, 2010, she uses the example of music to explain this. “The contrast between the gaiety of the music and the horror of the times fascinated me, as did the fact that the attitude embodied by the music was encouraged by society.”
Robert, like most servicemen following the war, was advised to try and fit back into his previous life as quickly as possible; to get on with things. Catherine was discouraged from asking him questions about what went on.
With him having no means of expressing himself and her no way of reaching her damaged husband, the tension builds to exploding point. Yet on the surface, life continues in a calm manner that was surely not a reflection of the despair below the surface.
About Laura Bloom
Born in Sydney in 1968, Bloom has two previous novels under her maiden name Budd. Choosing Zoe (Penguin Books, 2002) is a romantic comedy and Augustine’s Lunch (Allen & Unwin, 2001) is a young adult novel that was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction and runner-up in the Young Australian Readers Awards.
In the Mood is just one book is a series Bloom is writing set at various times across the 20th century. Her next book is The Cherry Walk and takes place in the present in Mullumbimby, the small Australian town where Bloom is based.
In the Mood (Viking, imprint of Penguin Group (Australia), 2010, ISBN: 978-067-007-3917, 326 pages.)
Good Reading Magazine, June 2010.
My rating: ★★★★