Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aussie Book Review: Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo

Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a core group of friends from high school. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. Just as she is reaching for a future she can't quite see, Holly is borne back into the past by memories of her beloved father, and of the boy-who-might-have-been...

Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.

Laura's confident, astute and witty voice has already been recognised with the success of Good Oil, with North American English rights sold to Knopf and German language rights sold to Arena. It was also shortlisted for the Prime Minister's
Literary Awards. Her second novel is extraordinary and bittersweet – and shows us exactly what it is like to be a young person today – navigating the complexities of work, love, family and how to pay the rent.

My Thoughts
Another Aussie Hit! Are you surprised? =]

My first experience with Laura Buzo’s writing was when I read her debut novel Good Oil. I fell hard for that book, so I was all sorts of excited when I heard she was coming out with another contemporary.  

When I was done reading Holier Than Thou what I was left with was a ton of notes written down that included scattered thoughts, music choices, character details and all sorts of musings. It’s something I find I do quite often for books that have an impact on me. The notes are all over the place, but one thing is for certain… it was nothing short of a profound and fulfilling journey having traveled with these characters for a small moment of time.

There were parts of the narration that I struggled with a bit because it would jump from time frame to time frame, and I’d be left not knowing where I was to go next with Holly. However, I soon realized that was the whole point. She was a bit lost herself and had so much on her mind and in her heart to share through her narration that the only way she could achieve telling her story with the truest sense of honesty was to give the reader a VIP pass into her organized chaos in the most revealing way possible.

I find that’s a signature move with Aussie contemporaries. The characters hold nothing back and you learn about every aspect of their lives and to not feel a connection or some sort of sympathy is to miss the magic of these stories.

Nicholarse and Holier Than Thou left me with a small pang regret, and there was a part of me that wanted these characters to achieve their own sort of happy ending, but in the end… Holly did the right thing. She made a choice that spoke volumes to her integrity, and she earned a ton of respect from me as a character.

Holly was fierce, strong and worthy of her title Woman of Steel. She goes down in my book as a character I won’t soon forget and would drop my afternoon responsibilities for a chat and cup of tea with her. She shared her struggle and pain of losing her father and later her fear of losing her close friendships as they grow older and have to deal with real life. This story felt honest and oh so very real. 

It was very character driven with constant shifts in time frames, which made it hard at times to gain my bearings, but in the end it’s earned a spot in my heart for its realism and impact. Overall, another Aussie contemporary that shouldn’t be missed.

4 Snowflakes

Song Choice: With Me - Sum 41


  1. Wonderful review, Arlene! I've been meaning to read this one for awhile but Aussie books are so hard to find in the US! I'm glad you enjoyed this one though and like you, I loved Good Oil, so I'm hoping I'll adore this one as well! :D

    Ivy Book Bindings

    1. Thank you Keertana. I agree, they are really hard to find. I once found Beetle Meets Destiny at the library and my heart stopped because I was so shocked. LOL I love.love.loved Good Oil. I still want Buzo to continue that story three years later. :) Well I hope you get to read this one soon. Thank you for posting!

  2. I've heard mixed things about this one but if you sing it's praises I'm sure I'll like it. Wonderful review Arlene. :)

    1. Thank you Rachel! Yes, I've seen mixed reviews too, but I really enjoyed it, so I'm glad I ended up diving into it. Good Oil is still my fave though. :)