02 December, 2013

The last Days of the National Costume by Anne Kennedy [Emma, Birkenhead Library]

Not such a compelling subject, I first thought - Auckland in the late 1990s, a clothes-mender, an Irish dancing dress.  Not what I would usually go for.  But Anne Kennedy works magic.  Makes almost mundane subjects into something very special.  Her first book of poems (Sing-Song),  about her daughter having excema, I loved.   I also loved this book.
The Last Days of the National Costume made me feel like I was walking around Eden Terrace and central Auckland with GoGo Sligo, looking over her shoulder.  Her familiar way of talking to you,  as though you would "get it", and understand her actions, and her feelings (you do get it, sometime before she does).  GoGo lives with her husband Art in a "villa conversion", from where she runs her business: mending and altering clothing. Along with the clothes come the secrets of her clients; as she says, "people dress up to cheat" - and then they rip their clothes.  A guy brings her a dress to fix, and she becomes intrigued by him, so she keeps telling him the dress isn't ready, so he keeps coming back.  Meanwhile, there is a power cut in the city, which lasts for weeks.
This is a story of different kinds of love, of someone slowly realising things about herself, and her life.  The description is sensual - tactile and visual.  The skidding of beads across a floor, the touch of warm skin, of coarse thread, of fabric.  Against the soft light of the sun, and hurricane lamps in the darkness of no electric.   It is in soft focus, and beautiful, and yet quite common-sense too!

Title: The Last Days of the National Costume
Author: Anne Kennedy
ISBN: 9781743313862
Published : Sydney, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2013

1 comment:

  1. oh yea, incredible. we sooo want to fulfill this person, he is an excellent create.

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