Friday, 24 November 2017

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

If you had met my father you would never, not for an instant, have thought he was an assassin.

Most of us would recognise Magda Szubanski as Sharon: the hapless netball-loving “second best friend” in the Australian TV comedy series Kath and Kim. Although this memoir covers Szubanski's path to becoming a comedian and actor; much of the book is about Szubanski's father. From the age of 15 to 19 he was a Polish Resistance fighter in Warsaw during WW2; killing Nazi’s and collaborators.

His experiences left inevitable scars and post-traumatic stress disorder. He had at times a difficult relationship with Magda; although the more she learned about his past the more his behaviour made sense, and they became close in adulthood.

The author later visits Poland, uncovering family stories and coming to terms with the intergenerational trauma inflicted by the war.

After being liberated from a POW camp he meets and marries Magda’s Scottish mother. Emigrating to the outskirts of Melbourne in the 1970's from England was a delightful culture shock for the Szubanski children, and Magda describes her carefree childhood running around a new suburb with dirt roads and few amenities.

Szubanski records with humour and pathos her emerging comedy and acting career, battles with weight, and coming to terms eventually with her sexuality. At one point she was a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.

She describes coming out as a lesbian to her friends, family and then later the public as “a fate worse than death”, but has since become vocal in her support of marriage equality in Australia.

Reckoning has won numerous awards in Australia including Book of the Year and a Booksellers' Choice award.

Magda Szubanski is an excellent and intelligent writer and Reckoning is so much more than a celebrity memoir.

Reviewed by Katrina

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