May 2, 2011

The Weeknight Book Club: Bad Behaviour by Liz Byrski.

I've got Semi Expat to thank for putting me onto the author of tonight's book.  'Bad Behaviour' is the first novel by Liz Byrski that I've read.

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Have you moved on from that ex?  The one who broke your heart and destroyed your trust.  You've moved on in a physical sense - stable and mature relationship, a busy and full life.  But the happy life you've now built for yourself changes and you start questioning and looking back to the past.  Perhaps you haven't completely put the past behind you.

At the centre of 'Bad Behaviour' is Zoe, a woman happily married to Archie and a contented stay at home mother of 3 children - Dan, Rosie and Gaby.  Zoe is going through an unsettling period of her life.  Her children are all adults and are beginning to find their own lives outside of the family home.  On top of this, menopause is playing tricks with Zoe's moods and general well being.

Zoe has a special bond with Dan, her eldest child and only son.  He was born in the UK before Zoe migrated to Australia and settled in Perth.  Dan is a son any parents would be proud of.  He serves Australia in the army.  He's also just met Justine, the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.  Zoe takes an instant dislike to Justine because she's just not the woman she imagined her son to marry.    Zoe also begins to fear that the older, capable and likable Justine could usurp her role as carer and protector in the family she has worked so hard to support.

The plot shifts between decades and cities.  We are taken back to Zoe's life in the 60's in London.  Her first love Richard and his sister Julia who became a good friend to Zoe.  But things didn't go as planned for the trio.  Richard and Julia's parents look down on Zoe and treat her with disdain.  Undeterred, Richard and Zoe marry and start a family.  Except that the child Zoe carries is so obviously not Richards.  The three friends separate for decades.  Each to heal (or not) in their own way as the decades pass and adult responsibilities assume more of their time.

Circumstances bring them back together in the present time.  The wounds of the past never quite healed.  There's fresh pain but ultimately a resolution for Richard, Julia and Zoe which sets Zoe on a more positive direction in her life with her family in Perth.

I really enjoyed reading 'Bad Behaviour' because it's a 'book about women'.  It's too serious, really, to be clumped together with 'chick lit'.  Its central themes move beyond the 'chick lit' trinity of kids, men and clothes.  The women in Byrski's novels have grown older and wiser in some ways but not others.  An added bonus was the backdrop of Perth (home) for much of the novel. There was also a huge novelty factor in recognizing many of the suburbs and landmarks mentioned.

Byrski probes deeper into the minds of the women in her novels.  Their roles in their family once the children have grown up.  How their lives have changed with time and a wiser choice in life partner.  How the past will always affect the present.  How it's not looking old that is the most upsetting but the other physical and emotional implications of ageing - menopause, husbands and their illnesses, how fragile and finite life really is.  The women of Byrski's novels are sandwiched between fulfilling the needs of their own family and those of their parents.

'Bad Behaviour' was an easy read yet it explored some of the more profound and less commonly written about aspects of life for women over the age of 30.  It's intelligent, it's warm and Liz Byrski is definitely one of my new finds.


  1. Ooooh - sounds good. I will have to get it on my Kindle.... Am currently reading "The Last Testament Of The Holy Bible" which is weird but quite good.

  2. Another great review SSG. I'm off to check out the Book Depository.

    TDM xx

  3. Oh I am SO glad that you enjoyed her book SSG (thanks for the mention too!) and what a wonderful review - loved reading your opinion on her book. And agree it is better than 'chick lit'. Liz Byrski is such an inspiring woman and a great speaker too. XX

  4. Great review! i am adding this one to my must read list (ahhh its getting so long!)

    Btw I have an award for you on my blog x

  5. Ruby_Dearxx: thank you! That was very kind of you. I will have a look as soon as I can.

    SSG xxx

  6. i am hooked! Sounds like a great read ssg. will put that on my list. L


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