5 WAYS TO BE FAMOUS NOW
Kerryn Goldsworthy, Sydney Morning Herald
Reading this sharp, funny novel is like watching a Baz Luhrmann movie of a Noel Coward play.
It's a classic farce, the hyper-real tale of a fire-lighting psychopath and his voyage to Antarctica, which turns out to be a carefully orchestrated revenge plot aimed at four "deserving victims". The ship is a privately owned and indeed privately commissioned replica of the Queen Mary, a cruise ship whose elegant owner and captain has a corrupt fundamentalist-Christian husband and some secrets of her own.
The four victims, believing themselves to have won cruise tickets in a lottery, share a weakness: they have all been seduced in youth by the promise of fame, and have all been reduced by the hardships of life to credulous and crumbling middle age.
This book is funny but often a little bleak, and Meehan saves her most pointed satire for those who desire fame as writers – an extra turn of the satirical screw.
Jessica Slade, Abbey's Bookshop, Sydney
Four stars out of five.
The confines of a cruise ship headed for the most remote part of Antarctica is the perfect setting for jealous temperaments to thrive and plots of revenge to unfold in this satirical, page-turning novel.
Embarking on the ship’s maiden voyage is a cast of colourful characters, including the anonymous firebug narrator whose psychopathic tendencies are all part of his charm; and the rather unnerving, manipulative captain of the ship with a secret worth killing for.
As the ship sets sail, it quickly becomes apparent that those on board are so swept up in their desire for recognition, they’re blind to the shared ghosts in their pasts.
This novel is a delightfully wicked romp with a razor-sharp edge. Maurilia Meehan’s expertly executed use of irony and subtle humour make even the most outlandish motives believable, and the attention to detail and careful development of each character’s backstory results in a thoroughly satisfying, cohesive storyline.
The familiar turns of phrase and intelligent wordplay associated with the author’s style are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood. Exploring some of the darker facets of human nature, this book will be enjoyed by anyone looking for a fast-paced read with tantalising twists.
REVIEWS OF MADAME BOVARY'S HABERDASHERY
Story is a protean thing, shape-shifting to match and beguile both the mind that creates it and the mind that observes it.
In Maurilia Meehan's latest novel, Madame Bovary's Haberdashery, the story's layers fold, loop and twine around themselves, always keeping track, never unravelling despite the frequent changes and twists.
Emma Bovary resonates through the book in all her vulnerable desiring, her fate contrasted with that of women who also desire unwisely, romantically, but are partly protected at least in the West by 21st-century attitudes and a shaky independence.
Meehan's two protagonists, Odette and Cicely, are in their 30s, friends since primary school. Both are wildly creative. Odette is a ceramic artist who ruthlessly smashes all her own work in an exhibition because she is unsatisfied with the glaze. Cicely writes and crochets: her writing and her handiwork many-layered, surprising and convoluted, anchored firmly, indeed perilously, in the real events of her own life and of Odette's.
She also reads, with a devouring intensity that has its own creativity. Her fecund mind makes hallucinations that trouble her sex life: seeing white-tailed spiders whenever she is, as she says, ''in the throes''. She is also anxious about knives, lightning and hairdressers.
Their lovers are predatory, parasitical, narcissistic. Zac, in his early 40s, captivates first Odette and then Cicely. He is busy working on a translation of Madame Bovary, one that attracts the interest of a major publishing house until it becomes clear that he doesn't speak more than schoolboy French.
Odette is fascinated by his piercing blue eyes (there's a strong implication that they have some form of hypnotic effect) and cannot rest until she has recreated them exactly in ceramic glaze. Cicely is less in thrall to him but appreciates the sex.
For a time the menage a trois works, but when Zac's big publishing project fails, he jealously blames Cicely, who has actually had a novel published. This incident gives rise to one of Meehan's little masterpieces of insight: whereas Cicely sees Emma Bovary as someone who, given a credit card and a little freedom, wouldn't have done badly at all, Zac's take on Flaubert is that ''women bleed men dry'' and thus Cicely is a succubus. He punishes her by taking Odette away and bans all contact.
That Odette complies is part of her own lack of insight. Cicely, on the other hand, starts to lose her physical sight and relies increasingly on audio books, becoming obsessed with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.
Cicely manages to survive and even profit from the attentions of the prophetically named Dragan Greid, one of the unspeakables who hang around screenwriters and bilk them and the quangos that fund them. But not all the men are horrible: Dr Singh, a benignly mad ophthalmologist, operates on her eyes and inaugurates the resolution and healing of her life - and Odette's.
There is much more that happens in this rich and varied book; how Odette and Cicely manage to negotiate the recursive twists and turns of their evolving fates as they play out is the stuff of real and profound story-making.
Madame Bovary's Haberdashery is the kind of novel that has you turning pages with happy greed. The plot is like a crochet pattern of outward simplicity and inner complexity, harking to the hyperbolic space experiments in crochet done by physics students making model coral reefs.
It is the first of a linked trilogy; the sequels will be something to look forward to. There is so much to delight here: a wealth of themes and resonances, redolent with wordplay and humour among the pity and terror. For when we read, we are also read.
Juliette Hughes, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 2013
Her stories have been likened to Angela Carter’s wild and wickedly magical fairytales and author Maurilia Meehan playfully delights that her previous novelAdultery holds glory as one of the most stolen books from libraries.
In this, Meehan’s bawdy, Bacchanalian passion-cum-mystery novel noir, forty-something Zac has spent seven years on the definitive translation of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Well-read girlfriend (and sexy steam ironer) Erica has split and their love-making days to a Bolero soundtrack are over.
Yet Flaubertian-moustached Zac cannot believe his luck when dream-goddess, ceramicist Odette, plucks him from the street one night. In truth, she fell for his eyes, “The exact shade of azure she had recently failed to achieve in her last batch of glaze.”
Yet Odette comes as a couple, with best friend Cicely, writer or erotica and knitter of cloche hats. One night, Cicely looms up in the four-poster alongside Zac, but the brief manage ? trois is marred by jealousy.
When Odette, whom Zac is rehearsing as a target girl for a dagger-throwing show, disappears, Cicely channels fictional sleuth Miss Marple for detecting tips. Turbans and tarot cards at dawn. Decadently delicious.
Jennifer Byrne, Presenter, ABC's First Tuesday Book Club,
Australian Women’s Weekly September 2013
With her fifth novel, Maurilia Meehan has carved out a subversive niche of chick-lit mystery. Madame Bovary’s Haberdashery is an amusing romp for the thinking woman, with references to Flaubert, Milan Kundera, and Agatha Christie. The decidedly feminist viewpoint is tempered by a mordant use of irony and satire.
Carol Middleton, Australian Book Review April 2013
Maurilia Meehan deftly pays homage to Agatha Christie and Gustave Flaubert, while creating her own delightful tale sure to satisfy lovers of noir, passion, and a great mystery.
When the reclusive knitter and erotic novelist Celia leaves the room, she leaves behind her “a trail of unraveling wool”. What she doesn’t anticipate is becoming part of a brief ménage à trois with best friend Odette, and their new housemate Zac (an amateur translator of Flaubert), a liaison that suddenly becomes far more complicated.
When Odette disappears from her new apartment, Celia, an Agatha Christie devotee, finds herself playing her previously imagined role of detective, charged with unraveling a murder mystery as entwined and colourful as her “increasingly bizarre crochet work”.
Following a trail of tarot cards variously connected to Odette’s multifarious love interests, Celia not only questions her own objectivity in pursuing the case; she encounters the delightful Miss Ball (a character fictionalised in her own novel as Flaubert’s Emma Bovary) and her haberdashery. Meehan delightfully subverts the ending of Flaubert’s classic tale, and elegantly integrates it into the developing mystery.
Unable to confine her enquiry to five suspects, Celia must draw upon Miss Marple’s skill in abstract logic, the answer revealing itself when she knits together the much-needed resolution.
Fiona O’Brien, Melbourne Review March 2013