“‘But that’s not happening, is it Auntie,’ I wailed. ‘My left side is getting stiffer all the time.’
‘Ah well,’ she said in the voice people use to hide the truth. ‘You must pray to God to make you better.’
I like to picture a fairy godmother standing over us at birth. ‘This first baby will be beautiful, courageous and artistic,’ she decreed. ‘Name her Isabelle or Ella. Her twin, though crippled and plain, will be prudent and discerning. So call her Elizabeth or Lilbet.’“
Set in the summer and autumn of 1938, “Body and Soul: Lilbet’s Romance” is eighteen-year-old crippled Lilbet Mark’s account of the love affair between Felix Goldfarb, a recent migrant to Melbourne, and Lilbet’s twin-sister Ella. Lilbet’s father Simon Marks, her eldest sister Julie, and all their friends are entranced by Felix Goldfarb. Never before have they come across such a winning blend of worldly sophistication and boyish charm. Only clever Lilbet suspects Felix might not be all that he seems. Also, it is imperative for her physical and psychological wellbeing that Ella remains in Adeline Terrace.
As Lilbet records the day to day events that occur in Adeline Terrace South Melbourne, she explores Australia heading towards World War 2, the intolerance once shown towards the disabled, the ambivalence she feels towards her family, and the double edged sword of love and envy.
But is Lilbet as badly done by, as she would have us believe?
Among the press clippings, the unconfirmed reports coming out of Hitler’s Germany of anti-Jewish violence, and the increasing belligerence of Germany towards her neighbours add to the growing tension for this Jewish family in Melbourne of the 1930’s.
Review: Viewpoint 2003
Adeline Terrace in Melbourne during 1938 is brought to vivid life in “Body and Soul Lilbet’s Romance”. The Marks young women, Julie, Ella and Lilbet’s lives pivot around domestic tasks in a motherless household with their dour father. But their existence is not drudgery, and the domestic is celebrated in the fascinating book. Julie is a marvellous cook, and the aromas of her meals rise off the page.
Into their lives comes the charming Alex Goldfarb, refugee from Hitler’s Germany and teller of mesmerising tales. He beguiles the extended household, but with prescience, bookish Lilbet remain sceptical.
The ambivalence Lilbet feels toward her family, her own mixed feelings toward Felix and the double-edged sword of love and envy challenge Lilbet as she struggles to mature despite her disability and the oppressive care of her older sister, Julie.
Interspersed throughout her story are Lilbet’s newspaper cuttings which provide the historical and social context, from the Spanish Civil War and the threat of much wider war, to McFarlane Burnet and the influenza virus, to Polio treatment, local theatre, holiday recipes, and much, much more in the richly detailed, evocative novel. –