Many adjectives have been used to describe Georgia Blain’s work, including evocative, powerful, atmospheric, haunting, rich, thought-provoking, skilful, uncompromising and finely detailed—all of which apply to this collection of short stories, Blain’s seventh book. To the mix I would add succinct and insightful. Somewhat misleadingly titled (although it is the title of the first of the 13 stories), The Secret Lives of Men is a series of vignettes exploring aspects of life in contemporary Australia. That said, the stories are in no way obviously political—rather, their Australianness is situated in the the easily relatable suburban contexts and pared-back prose. I enjoyed joining the characters mid-stream, and that Blain trusts the reader to quickly catch up with the intricacies of the plot. The stories that resonated most with me include ‘Just a Wedding’, in which a young bride is having second thoughts about her rushed nuptials; ‘Murramarang’, which examines failed friendships and finishes with a delicious twist; and ‘The Bad Dog Park’, where a man’s devotion to his unwell pet is severely tested. Blain’s clear and distinct voice provides the consistency and integrity for these moving tales—a rare treat.
Rachel Wilson is a Melbourne-based media academic and former bookseller. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 1 2013 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.