Lola Bensky, a character often referred to as Lily Brett’s alter ego, has appeared in Brett’s short fiction, as well her 1990 novel Things Could Be Worse. In Brett’s new novel we get the complete world of Lola. The book opens in London in the swinging 60s, with 19-year-old Lola interviewing soon-to-be famous musicians. Drawing on aspects of Brett’s own life, as much of the author’s writing does, the novel follows Lola through the contemporary culture of the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st. When we first meet Lola she is absorbed by her parent’s survival of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. She also has a genuine fascination with other people’s lives, and musicians such as Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Janis Joplin and Mama Cass feature in her early life. But then Lola ages, and one of Brett’s remarkable skills is to make the changes in Lola’s attitudes convincing. At 63 years old, Lola is still Lola and could be no-one else. Through seamless switches in time and place, Brett delivers an entertaining story that is also full of heart. Lola Bensky should appeal to a wide readership, not just female readers.
Pip Newling is a writer and bookseller at Shearer’s Bookshop in Leichhardt, Sydney. This review first appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.