CLEANSKIN
Gay Lynch

 


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Wakefield Press, This Edition 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Itís the 1980ís and Madelaine lives in the fishing town of Port Lincoln in South Australia. She is the mother of two young girls and belongs to an informal playgroup of comfortably middle class women.

Nell is the earth mother of the group. Large and well-intentioned, Nell will swoop in with food and will mind the kids, whenever there is a crisis. Nell does tend to put her oar in when itís not really wanted, though. She and her husband Czabo would sooner spend the afternoon sitting on the floor playing with the kids than socializing with other adults.

Pauline is married to the local GP. Pauline gives perfect dinner parties. Sheís always well organized, serves great food and her house is always immaculate.

Jo has great taste and buys and sells designer clothes at a local boutique. But itís universally acknowledged that her husband is a not a nice man and he has been known to hit her.

Finally there is Madelaineís best friend, Danica. Danica is the quiet one of the group. Shy and insecure, Danica hates the fact that her husband, a fisherman, is away most of the time. Danicaís way of dealing with this is to binge eat and then exercise to the point of exhaustion.

Madelaine spends much of her time using a video camera to record her life. Her husband, Jerome, isnít a bad man, but he doesnít make her happy. In fact, she is miserable. As their relationship slowly deteriorates, Madelaineís life becomes increasingly difficult and spins completely out of control when Jerome is found dead on a beach. Test results reveal an overdose of tranquilisers. Was Jerome murdered? Did he commit suicide or was it just a tragic accident?

None of these women are really content. In CLEANSKIN we watch events through the eyes of an unknown observer as the depths of their unhappiness are slowly revealed through conversations with one another. Most of the focus is on Madelaine and we are allowed into her thoughts.

CLEANSKIN chronicles a period of several months in the lives of these people. It offers little in the way of context and few explanations. Many elements of the book are implied rather than explained. While CLEANSKIN poses many questions, in particular the reasons behind Madelaineís unhappiness and many of her actions, it leaves it to the readers to come up with their own answers.

Sep 2006 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem
 

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