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Leon Joyce’s years with Tess Wachowicz began with an Emanuel Ungaro taffeta ballgown, part of his collection of women’s attire kept in three wardrobes at the South Yarra house. The collection took in Givenchy, Jacques Fath, Schiaparelli, Madae Grès, Helmut Lang, Claire McCardell, Mainbocher, Miyake, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Dior, Travis Banton, Pucci and Antony Price.
Leon is a man unburdened by sexual desire. Nonetheless he adores his wife—only partly for the way she wears his exquisite collection of haute couture—and when she becomes ill and dies he is completely shattered.
Then he discovers her correspondence with an unknown lover, and his suffering veers towards madness.
Leon hunkers down at his neglected country property, Joyful, with the entire local supply of scotch whisky and a bizarre plan to retrieve (posthumously) Tess’s devotion.
In this extraordinary comedy of grief, Robert Hillman evokes his characters, from the merely unconventional to the frankly deranged, with kindness, grace and wit. Joyful is a gift that will leave the reader deeply moved and filled with delight.
‘Hillman allows both men the grace of redemption and the prospect of a better kind of happiness, complete with its scars. Joyful is exactly as it says, a great joy of a book. Robert Hillman is not making fun of grief but rather of his characters’ determination to wallow in their sorrow. It is a constant balancing act, skillfully enforced by Hillman and it makes reading Joyful an act of absolute pleasure.’
‘A detailed work that portrays an entire, sealed world of complex and ultimately connected storylines. The cultural setting is realised in a wonderfully rich Victorian style. Extended studies of social manners, quotes from journals and letters, and the aligning of characters with their passions for books, poetry and music, clothing, all produce a social world that is not only vivid but also ripe for commentary and debate.’
‘A deft and original portrayal of grief, longing and forgiveness.’
‘Hillman has a carefully calibrated sense of the line between mourning and madness, and he plays it to the hilt… Hillman’s prose is a pleasure to read, elegantly alert to the paradox of strong feeling, full of poetry yet never entirely convinced by the absurd rhetorical gestures favoured by ruined men.’
‘This calamitous work, brassy with the vigour of life in a specifically Australian, specifically contemporary way, singles Hillman out from the crowd. There is nothing around quite like it; no genre, no homage to acknowledge. Leon, in his journey towards acceptance of the duality of one life, is a memorable, even dear character, and I would have been happy to have read this glittering, noisy work for Leon alone. And for Susie…and for the happy ending.’
‘A story about redemption and negotiating a place of peace inside despair.‘
‘Slightly crazed, this unconventional story is essentially two similar struggles, at once both funny and sad. They finally merge and find resolution.’
‘Ravishing, compelling prose…It’s a strangely funny, compelling, and sad novel, the beauty of which is found in searching for what remains once beauty has disappeared.’