Review: Thea Astley – It’s Raining in Mango

It’s Raining in Mango
Thea Astley
It’s Raining in Mango is a required novel I read for Australian Literature and History B at Griffith University. It is a typical Australian gritty novel, but the themes in it are varied and have the potential to be enjoyable.

1670400I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hate Australian literature. Astley is an Australian author who has received the Miles Franklin award four times – just like Tim Winton, who is far more well known. Do you wonder why that is? It’s that Tim Winton writes accessible, modern fiction (that I’m also not particularly fond of), and Astley prefers to tackle the racism of early Australian history. Or at least she does in this novel.

It’s Raining in Mango covers five generations of the Laffey family. It takes quite a bit of getting used to, because the perspective jumps generations quite frequently. I really don’t like perspective jumps at all, and these ones also overlap in time. For example, Connie calls Will to tell him Harry has died, but then it jumps to Will going away for the war and he comes back as Harry dies.
I was surprised to find mid-way through this book a gay storyline. It turns out that Will is queer, but he finds it impossibly hard to accept it within the contraints of early Australian society. It’s sad to see that he can’t accept himself, and seems to be doomed to be lonely. At one point, it appears that he has sex with Connie instead, to comfort him from the horrors of war – but I can’t quite be sure.
The underlying themes of the book, as I mentioned before, include racism against the Australian Aboriginals, and also the judgement of women and men’s sexual choices. That’s one of the more interesting themes to me – in depicting the typical men and prostitutes, but also presenting a young prostitute’s side of things. Also, Connie’s son seems to be out of wedlock as well, so at least within the Laffey family, noone seems to mind about what women do with their bodies.
I borrowed this book from my local library because I didn’t think I’d care about it enough to want it on my shelves. There are a variety of covers it has had, but Amazon appears not to have any of them at the moment.

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