Divided Houses - Janice Paull
"It is vivid and convincing, its voice utterly authentic...And for all its record of distress it is written with love. I felt that the writer had to write it. Which is probably the most important thing you can say about any book."
ALEX MILLER, twice winner of the Miles Franklin Award
Set in Sydney and Melbourne between 1932 and 1955, Divided Houses depicts the doomed relationship of Eddie and Vivien, two people whose lives have already been affected by the Great Depression and its aftermath. Eddie takes advantage of Vivien; pregnancy, marriage and children follow. As World War II begins, and the fear of a Japanese invasion grips Australia, Eddie evacuates his family.
In 1942, the Bertoli family moves into an Edwardian villa in Toorak which is shared by two other families. Its elegant façade is in sharp contrast with its rat-infested, overcrowded interior. A partition which runs the length of the kitchen is the only physical division. The battles and betrayals of World War II are paralleled in the lives of its inhabitants.
Footscray-born Eddie Bertoli is a survivor: clever, brash and opportunistic. His Italian name, a legacy from his grandfather, attracts racist taunts. He makes decent, though flawed attempts to improve his circumstances. He sells condoms. The rubber is perished. He pickles onions. They rot. His battler optimism is undermined by his angry and violent responses to stress, rejection, and life's hardships.
Vivien, beautiful, impulsive and rebellious, is trapped by Eddie, but consoled by motherhood. She nurtures and encourages her son John and daughter Cathy who delight in her stories. In response to Eddie's violence and control she seeks relief in self-destructive activities and escapades.
John and Cathy are resilient and clear-eyed; their imaginative, amusing games and commentaries are a tender contrast to the family's trials.