Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 23, 2017

Some Tests, by Wayne Macauley

Wayne Macauley is an entertaining satirist who mercilessly exposes Australian follies, and I like his novels very much.  I’ve read Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe (2004, satirising our obsession with home ownership); The Cook (2011, it parodies foodies); Demons (2014, which exposes the inane narcissism of middle-class Melbourne ); and I have Caravan Story (2007) somewhere on the TBR.  (Links are to my reviews). Macauley’s latest target, in Some Tests, is the medicalization of normal life…

Beth is a nice, ordinary woman with a husband and a couple of kids, living in an ordinary Melbourne suburb.  She works in aged care, and David, her husband is an accountant.  They are muddling through life as most people do, planning a renovation that they can’t really afford, occasionally worrying about infidelity without apparent cause, and coping with the vagaries of parenthood.  Until one day when Beth wakes up not feeling very well, and David calls in a locum because their usual doctor isn’t available.

The locum’s diagnosis is a bit vague, but Beth is feeling seedy so she agrees to go for some tests.  And from this innocuous beginning, she finds herself on a merry-go-round of doctors and specialists and referrals, with a patient file that grows ever larger but never records a diagnosis.

On the first day, Beth seems to be experiencing what is familiar to all of us, but soon events take a more surreal turn.  Her case acquires a sense of urgency, and she is squeezed in for further appointments on the same day, going from Dr Yi to Dr Twoomey and then on to Dr Kolm.  The doctors’ room are located further and further away across Melbourne, necessitating long trips to the more remote suburbs, and the passengers on the trains and buses are all – every one of them! clutching referral slips for ‘more’ tests.  There are so many of them that kindly bus drivers call out the stops and give the passengers directions to the ever-lengthening roll call of doctors.  The time and distance involved means that Beth spends all day getting there and ends up staying the night – in rooms that are thoughtfully prepared in advance for her, complete with fresh undies and toothbrush.  It is as if she is on a conveyor belt and there is no getting off once she gets on.

She is –  of course – prescribed some drugs at PharmComm: they are precautionary … to some extent prophylactic – but in a certain sense palliative too, and she is docile about taking them.  Her passivity and self-absorption will be eerily familiar to anyone who has been shunted around the medical system… it’s all so tiring and confusing, in the end we just go along with things, eh?

There is, in trademark Macauley style, a suitably macabre ending.

Author: Wayne Macauley
Title: Some Tests
Publisher: Text Publishing, 2017
ISBN:  9781925355932
Source: Bayside Library

Available from Fishpond: Some Tests


Responses

  1. I rather like the sound of this one particularly as I enjoyed Demons whose barbs could just as easily have hit their targets here in the UK.

    • Yes, absolutely. It’s middle-class life and #FirstWorldProblems he likes to puncture, and that’s not just Australian, I’m sure.

  2. I’m looking forward to this one; I loved The Cook!

    • That is my favourite of all his books. I just loved it. (And as you know, I am a Masterchef Tragic and a Foodie).

      • Yes, I know.

  3. There’s a stream in SF where everyday situations become more and more surreal, it’s a way of throwing light on them. Think I may like this one.

    • Yes, I like the way it sneaks up on the reader, it’s very skilled writing.


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