‘They are walking down the old street again, Rita, Vic and Michael.’
A summer evening in the late 1950s, in a newly developing suburb of Melbourne. We join Rita, Vic, and Michael as they walk down the (unsealed) street to engagement party of Patsy Bedser at the home of her father George. And as we walk with Rita, Vic, and Michael, we meet the other neighbours and have glimpses into each of their lives. Michael dreams of the future, Vic wants to be the engine driver on the Spirit of Progress, and Rita wants change. As they walk, they see a comet overhead. As they walk, we learn more about the neighbourhood and its history, about the dreams and disappointments of those who live there. We learn a little about the past and see something of the future.
And later, after the party, after a train accident the consequences of which seem likely to cost Vic his dream, Rita makes a difficult decision.
‘Driving is a gift. Physical. Something you’ve either got or you haven’t.’
This is the first novel of the six books in the Glenroy Series and for some reason, I read the last four first. So, I am heading back into the past, to the beginning of the story. It’s like catching up on the family history of old friends and revisiting familiar territory. I didn’t grow up in Melbourne, but I grew up in a similar new suburb on the (then) outskirts of Launceston in the early 1960s. New suburbs, new dreams, old secrets. Somehow, Mr Carroll manages to hold the story in the present while referring to the past and providing glimpses into the future. And while I know how the Glenroy Series ends, I need to read ‘The Gift of Speed’ to see what I have missed.
If you have not read this series, I recommend it. And, if you can, read the novels in order. These are beautifully written contemplative novels.
‘What happens to all that life? All that time? Where does it all go? One moment you feel like you’ve got all the years in the world to live, and the next you feel like you’ve lived them.’