The imagined autobiography of an eighty something, theremin playing junkie, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt is a novel all about life, love, loss and art.
Narrated in the first person by the 80yr old Lena, the story is an incredibly tender yet honest tale of a rootless soul searching for a fertile earth in which to plant herself. The present day Lena finds herself the subject of a documentary proposal from a young Australian filmmaker and finally agreeing to the project her story unfolds slowly, sensually and often tearfully.Born in Singapore, educated in Australia and after the death of her mother joins the heady, colourful post Great War Sydney club scene. She is introduced to a wondrous electrical instrument, played by waving your hands over it. Lena also meeets her true love, Beatrix, a bohemian painter with great contacts.
Her life continues to be revealed during interviews with Mo the documentary maker where the writer draws subtle comparisons between the two women, thus allowing Mo to make her own life decisions. At no time does Lena allow her life to become a woe is me tale, as readers we are not allowed to pity Lena, rather we love her and her indominatbility, perhaps a trait acquired through her lonely nomadic formative years. We fall for her as hard as she does for those she allows in, she displays a depth of love which was denied her as a child and a creative freedom which is intoxifying.
Tracy Farr has written a truly wonderful first novel and given life to wilfully ethereal musician whose life and art deserve this novel. Like the best actual autobiographies, as readers we finish the story determined to find out more about the subject and their work. We move to replace the needle on the opening groove and make a mental list for the local record shop.
A classy debut to be read and passed forward.