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Sunday, March 03, 2019

52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor. Melbourne: Allen and Unwin, 2019

In this author’s earlier novel The Family With Two Front Doors, we met little Nomi, a rabbi’s daughter, who lived in 1920s Poland with her huge family. The theme of that novel was the preparation for her older sister’s wedding. In the meantime, we got a peek at the busy life of the women and girls of that family, cleaning and cooking, but especially cooking their large kosher meals, effectively preparing a dinner party every week, and Jewish life in an Orthodox community. 

This novel is set about forty years later, in the Melbourne of the 1960s. Nomi is now a grandmother and her role as lead character is taken over by her granddaughter Anna. Anna and her two sisters have a very different life from Nomi’s childhood. They live with their observant, but not Orthodox, parents, go to school and enjoy a pleasant lifestyle. Melbourne in the 1960s, of course, had no Internet and no smartphones. TV was black and white. Milk in glass bottles was delivered by horse and cart. I remember that! The milkman’s horse was a pretty white mare called Lady, whom I used to pat while her human was off doing his job.  

The theme of this story is Anna’s desperate longing  for an antique doll like the one she has been reading about in her library book. Remember - no Internet, no Google or eBay to help. The 52 Mondays of the title refer to the Mondays when Anna’s mother takes her to the local auction rooms, which display items for sale before the Tuesday auctions. 

It’s probably not too much of a spoiler to tell you she eventually gets her wish, otherwise it would be more than 52 Mondays. Meanwhile, we go through a year of Anna’s family’s life - her classes, amusing accidents at home, school athletics days, games, birthday parties, swapcards, even illness. Nomi appears a number of times, as Nana Nomi, and charming she is too! 

The novel is loosely based on the author’s own childhood, but only loosely, she says. She refuses to go into detail or even say which part of Melbourne the story is set in, to allow all readers to imagine it as they wish. It’s gentle and charming and sometimes funny, like the first one. Again, the delightful illustrations are by the author. 

If you’d like to check it out, here’s the Booktopia link.

Also available on Apple Books, Amazon and in all good bookshops. 


Hels said...

Imagine being a child of the post war years, whose parents and grandparents lived in Odessa or Krakow, and growing up in Australia in the 1950s and 60s! Everything Ciddor mentioned was also familiar and loved in my family - swapcards, large seders with the cousins, school milk in tiny bottles, dusting blackboards...

And now we are grandparents ourselves :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ah, you’ve read it, then! Yes, I remember school milk. I used to bring a bit of Quik powder in a bit of lunchwrap and stir it in with my straw so I had chocolate milk. Pity the program was scrapped.

AJ Blythe said...

My Mum hated the school milk program. She grew up inland central Qld (!) and they used to leave the milk sitting so when it was recess Mum (and the other kids) were made to drink warm curdled milk. Mum was thrilled when the program was stopped.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Yes, I’ve heard plenty of people say this. It never happened to me - perhaps they kept the milk indoors, where it was cool. My school was about 100 years old last time I visited, and they used to build them with high ceilings in those days, and my primary school is bluestone. Cool!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - a book I should read ... we'd learn so much about life in Poland then the challenges facing the Jews - I came back as I've jut read your latest post about the book launch of '52 Mondays' ... thanks for writing this up =- cheers Hilary

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Hilary! Do read it, and The Family With Two Front Doors - that one is available in the UK now. But make sure you read Family after a meal, or you will be hungry! The food descriptions are mouth-watering!