Tiddas - Anita Heiss

So it's mid-2014 and I'm just writing my first review for the annual Australian Women Writers Challenge. On the plus side, the book I've just finished reading for the review is thought-provoking and that makes reviewing it interesting.


"Tiddas" is the story of five best friends, friends for decades, who meet for a monthly book club. So far, so cliche.


But Anita Heiss is a talented author and weaves in issues of identity around ageing, life choices and being an Aboriginal Australian - which she is.


As the reader dips in and out of the five different women's point of view, seeing each one through different eyes, we get a refreshing note of criticism. There's nothing like friends for seeing our strengths and weaknesses. These women aren't perfect and nor is their friendship. But it endures.


When I finished "Tiddas" I felt a bit cheated. The point of view didn't stay long enough with one particular character for me to feel it was "their" story and to emotionally invest in them and see the world of the novel their way. And then I realised: that was the point.


The Tiddas, the sisterhood circle, is the protagonist; not the individual women.


Do you remember when you were a kid, spinning in a circle till you were dizzy and fell down? Sometimes being a grown up is like that. You spin and spin, showing and hiding different aspects of yourself, growing some and smothering others.


With five women in the friendship circle, it spins and shows them in relationship to others, the choices they make, the expectations placed on them. There is a sense that this is a single woman spinning through the myriad experiences possible, choosing some, refusing others and always, always facing consequences.


I like that raw edge of decisions having consequences and life forcing decisions -- good or bad, they have to be made.


"Tiddas" is a well written book that includes references to current affairs and popular culture, references that I know will date, but which reaffirm the ephemeral, spinning feel of the book.


Life goes on. Or as the final line has it:


Above all else, their love for her flowed like the river.