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'Reckoning: a Memoir by Magda Szubanski' - Book Review

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Published November 9th 2015
Another reason to love Magda
To read the first sentence of this this heartfelt and honest book is to know immediately that it will be a far cry from the usual celebrity name-dropping ego trip: "If you had met my father you would never, not for an instant, have thought he was an assassin." This memoir is an attempt to reconcile the struggles and demons of history, family, and her own personal fears.

The book is beautifully crafted. Searching for a word to describe Szubanski's prose, the word "luminous" was insistent. Not just because each sentence is honed to a beautiful clarity, but because the book illuminates the dark, fearful and lonely corners of the human heart.

Szubanski's story is not their story, but many readers will find that her telling of it resonates deeply with their own experiences. When relating how she at first struggled to give life to her on-screen characters, she writes "I had to push myself to find the universal truths, the bedrock emotions that lie beneath all difference." This is exactly the feat she has achieved in this book: to write an intensely personal history that at the same time stands as a work of philosophy that will describe to readers their own and other's lives.

To grow up Polish is to go through life dragging along that country's long and tragic history. Szubanki's father was only fifteen when the Nazis invaded, and as a member of the Polish resistance was part of a squad assassinating Nazis and collaborators. War damages not only the combatants, but the children who grow in the shadow of the demons that haunt them.

"And I think" says Szubanski, "this is what war is. It is a universe in which doing the right thing is almost always simultaneously the wrong thing. And that is madness."

Readers wanting to know how she became a performer won't be disappointed, with her journey covered from suburban Croydon via university revues and alternative theatre to her greatest and most beloved creation, Sharon Strzelecki.

"People frequently ask me where Sharon comes from" she writes. "I often wonder myself. In truth Sharon is the most vulnerable part of me. I suspect that vulnerability has always been present in my work but it found its most perfect expression in Sharon. It was around this time that I started to top the Q scores, an independent measure to determine what and who the public finds familiar and appealing. Basically, a huge scientific popularity contest. And I had won it. If only the outcast, lonely me of my teens could have known."

The book also details her struggle to reveal her sexuality. It may be difficult for younger readers to comprehend that even in the 80s, homosexuality could see a person ostracised, and a performer's career ruined.

"Reckoning" is an engaging read that will leave you loving Magda even more. A perfect book for readers who think too much.

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Your Comment
I saw a TV interview with Magda about her book. I donlt ususally read celebrity memoirs but perhaps I'll make an exception for this one. There is somethng about Magda that is universally endearing.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|6154) 1071 days ago
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