Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 21, 2013

Sensational Snippets: Sunnyside (2005), by Joanna Murray-Smith

SunnysideI am reading Sunnyside by Joanna Murray-Smith: it’s a delicious comedy of manners, satirising The Good Life in the posh outer suburbs of Melbourne.

Molly, a respectable mother with two children, a Volkswagen Golf and a Gucci handbag, has sparked an existential crisis in Sunnyside by not only having it off with the local pool man, but also announcing it to the world.  But now not very happy about her husband forgetting his habitual niceness and calling her the wh- word, she has taken herself off to the ashram so that she can sort herself out.  Sitting in the Stillness room, she finds her thoughts straying to the vexed issue of her new brown twin set and her new tweed skirt.  Pairing them might be

… Katherine Hepburnesque or just plain dowdy. It was hard to know.  Pearls would clinch it one way or the other.  A twinset and pearls were so exaggeratedly trad, it could only be read as ironic.  There was nothing more chic than Bourgeois-Chic. (p.171)

Admitted at last to the presence of the Swami, she has the kind of conversation one has, I presume, when one is trying to find oneself.  But she has trouble identifying what kind of freedom she wants:

‘Where does freedom lie, Marvin?’
Swami Marvin tilted his head slightly to the left side and then to the right.  It was hard to know if this was part of a mystical thought process or just a neck ache.
‘Only you know that, Molly.’
Molly nodded.  There was something strangely charismatic about him.  Otherwise why would grown women in tennis bracelets be out there in the kitchen garden picking organic zucchinis?
‘Freedom lies somewhere different for each of us, Molly.  Perhaps true freedom lies in discipline, in constructing fences.  Tell me, Molly, where are you happiest?’
‘Happiest?’ In a department store, thought Molly.  Women’s imports.  ‘I’m not very spiritual, Marvin.  I’m very confused.  To be honest, I’m not really sure this can help me.’
‘We’re just here to help you find yourself.’
Molly nodded.  ‘And I’d like to help you help me help myself, I really would, but I think there are two parts of me in conflict.  The unhappy, unresolved, interesting me who wants to try to find meaning, and the selfish immature hedonist who just wants to try things out.  She’s right here in this room and she’s whispering things at me.’
‘What is she saying, Molly?’
‘She’s saying that the spiritual search is so damn unoriginal.  She’s saying that if shopping makes you happy, there’s nothing wrong with that.  She’s saying you’ve been a good, organised, responsible person all your life and now is the time to find out what else you are.  She’s saying that maybe it’s not such a bad thing if sometimes your conscience gives way to your imagination.’ (p. 175)

Joanna Murray-Smith, Sunnyside, Penguin Viking 2005.

This book is such fun!


  1. […] you saw my Sensational Snippet from Sunnyside, you will know that the novel is a comedy of manners satirising The Good Life.  […]


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