Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 19, 2013

The Whole of My World (2013), by Nicole Hayes, Guest Review by Karenlee Thompson

The Whole of My WorldNicole Hayes is a freelance writer, editor and teacher who hails from Melbourne.  The Whole of My World is her debut novel, and this is the blurb from Fishpond:

An unputdownable novel for anyone who’s ever loved or lost, drawn a line between then and now, or kept a secret that wouldn’t stay hidden …‘Today I am free. No guilt for who’s missing, what’s been left behind. My face aches from smiling in the wind and my voice rasps from all the screaming, and I know that it’s been forever since I’ve felt so completely alive.’ Desperate to escape her grieving father and harbouring her own terrible secret, Shelley disappears into the intoxicating world of Aussie Rules football. Joining a motley crew of footy tragics, and best of all, making friends with one of the star players.  Shelley finds somewhere to belong. Finally she’s winning. So why don’t her friends get it? Josh, who she’s known all her life, but who she can barely look at anymore because of the memories of that fateful day. Tara, whose cold silences Shelley can’t understand. Everyone thinks there’s something more going on between Shelley and Mick. But there isn’t, is there? When the whole of your world is football, sometimes life gets lost between goals.

So now you know why I had to pass this one on to my good friend Karenlee Thompson for review!  I know nothing at all about football – not even how many teams there are – and The Spouse and I compete each year to see which of us can outlast the other in not knowing (a) who’s in the Grand Final and (b) who won.  (I hold the record because one year I managed to stay in blissful ignorance till the following Monday lunchtime, which is no mean feat in sports-mad Melbourne.)

Fortunately, Karenlee was more than happy to share her thoughts about this novel:

In an interview with Marama Whyte at Hypable, Hayes admits to mining her own childhood for the background for this novel – and you can detect the similarities between Hayes and the central character, Shelley, who allows herself to be almost swallowed up by the fans and the players and the hype that make up the world of Aussie Rules.

Despite some minor insecurity, Shelley knows herself pretty well:

Somewhere deep down I’m ashamed of my gloating, but it’s pretty deep and easy to ignore. (p. 83)

The game of football and the people surrounding it fill the void left by tragedy on the home front.  As Shelley immerses herself in this other world, she comes close to losing her innocence but is ultimately saved by her own competence and common sense, as much as by the knowledge that, despite circumstances sometimes indicating otherwise, she is loved by her family and friends.

Hayes’ clever way with words is never more evident than when she talks about the game of football and its resonance to the city of Melbourne:

The moment you’re born in this city, or even if you move here, you have to choose a team to barrack for… [sometimes] it’s handed down to you like property or, if you barrack for Carringbush, a hereditary disease. (p. 73)

Sections and chapters are named in true footballing parlance: ‘Pre-season’, ‘One day in September’, ‘Best on Ground’ and the like and Hayes is clearly knowledgeable about the game, its players, and Melbourne – the city that is still the capital as far as AFL is concerned.

But it’s not all about the Sherrin and the big white posts.  Hayes has a knack for painting her characters uniquely. Of her new friend, Shelley thinks:-

Individually, her features could be pretty but, somehow, in the process of constructing a face, the bits don’t quite seem to match. (p. 21)

The story is set in the eighties and so some of the references might prove baffling for the book’s intended YA audience.  No doubt, there will be a few teenagers asking their parents “Who is Kim Wilde*?” or “is The Waltons* a television show?”  and “who or what is the Brady Bunch?*”
I’m pleased that Hayes provided a fictional cloak for her characters and football teams because it allowed her the freedom to explore motivation more easily and I’m sure she would have felt shackled if Shelley’s team and the named players were real.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel is the innocence (but growing awareness) with which Shelley embroils herself in a friendship with an older, married man. Mick ‘Eddie’ Edwards is clearly a handsome and charismatic guy.  We are never quite sure of his exact motives which I think in a YA book is just as it should be and could provide for some great educational discussion points for teenagers.

Thanks to Lisa at ANZ Litlovers for sending this book to me.  Lisa would be part of a minority group  in Victoria – someone who I don’t think has ever been to a game of Australian Rules Football – but she knew I would appreciate the backstory and enjoy reading The Whole of My World for review.

© Karenlee Thompson

Karenlee, I have to ‘fess up: I have actually been to a footy match. My first mother-in-law was convinced that if she could persuade me to attend one, that I would instantly be hooked.  So she invited me to the Grand Final, Carlton (her team) versus I-forget-who.  We even had seats in the members.  Alas, I did not understand a thing about the game, couldn’t pick one player from another, and had a headache within 15 minutes of the game starting.  It was sheer torture, and – in the absence of anything else to read – I spent the entire match reading, and pretending to be interested in, The Footy Record.  I still feel guilty about this failure to enjoy this match because I know that there are footy fans who camp out for days in advance to get a ticket to the finals, and there I was taking up a seat that I didn’t appreciate.

*  Links to these pop cultural references provided by me.  I figure that if I didn’t know who Kim Wilde was, others might not either.

Karen Lee ThompsonKarenlee Thompson is an author and an occasional reviewer for The Australian and was featured on Meet an Aussie Author in 2011.  Her debut novel 8 States of Catastrophe is reviewed on the ANZ LitLovers blog here.  Karen blogs at Karen Lee Thompson.

Thanks, Karenlee, for once again sharing your thoughts.

Author: Nicole Hayes
Title: The Whole of My World
Publisher: Woolshed Press, Random House, 2013
ISBN: 978 74275 860 2

Review copy courtesy of Random House.


Fishpond: The Whole of My World

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