Toni Jordan: Our Tiny Useless Hearts

This novel has been described as ‘a classic bedroom farce’,  a comedy about love and marriage [ Australian Book Review, 382, p. 27]. And it is. Filled with wonderful wit and cynical statements about suburbia, relationships, food fads, at times wittily exposing people acting instinctively, with over-the-top exaggeration. But it’s far more than that. The first half of the book builds up like a crescendo – at the end of each chapter a person turns up, almost impossibly – oh no, it couldn’t be, and the reader wonders what ever is going to happen next.  Then – wham – in the middle of the book we learn that the narrator, Janice, and her husband Alec, split up because Janice was unable to have a baby – the pain of it, the terrible emptiness.  When Alex was a little boy he wheeled his cat around in a pram. Janice so much wanted to give him a child. She felt she had to leave Alec to enable someone else to fulfil that role.   The rollicking comedy becomes a backdrop, transcended by Janice and Alec seeing each other again after some years, over which remnants of love have remained: ‘the former me, when it was the former us, knew every inch of him . . .’p.76. What will happen? Will their love be rekindled? It seems to have been smouldering in the background all the time. In comparison, the other relationships, battling over infidelities, seem mundane. And in the end it seems that Janice and Alec will find a new kind of life together. It is Janice who is concerned about her primary school age nieces being exposed to adult bawdiness, and it is Janice who works in a laboratory with bacteria and notes how we humans, in our existence, are not many steps away from them. The whole story takes place within 24 hours – beautifully crafted.