Home > 2010, 21st Century, Australian Literature, AWW Challenge, Beach and Public Transports Books, Jordan Toni, Sugar without cellulite > Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan – Australian vaudeville

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan – Australian vaudeville

December 22, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan (2016) Not available in French.

Yesterday was quite stressful: I was waiting for my daughter to fly back from Singapore via London after her semester at her school’s campus there. She was on the Singapore-London redeye when one after the other, European countries closed their border with the UK due to this new COVID stain. Her journey from London to our home has been an adventure and of course, her luggage is missing. But in the end, all went well and thank God for technology, I was following her trip step by step.

But I needed a good distraction. I started to work on my best-of-the-year list and eventually decided that I needed a sugar-without-cellulite book to keep my mind off things. I killed two birds in one stone when I downloaded Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan. It was the perfect distraction for the day and I reached the Stella stage of my 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Brilliant.

When the book opens, Caroline and Henry just had a fight. They’re married and have two daughters, Mercedes and Paris. (I wonder how they would have named their boys. Aston and Rome?) Caroline discovered that Henry’s cheating on her with Martha, their daughter Mercedes’s grade three teacher. Henry is trying to explain to his daughters why he’s leaving with the teacher. Janice, Caroline’s sister is at their place, ready to take over and watch her nieces for the weekend and this is the scene she witnesses at her arrival:

When I get to Caroline and Henry’s bedroom at the end of the corridor, I’m faced with a scene of devastation. Henry’s suits are spread out over the unmade bed like a two-dimensional gay orgy: here a Paul Smith, there a Henry Bucks, everywhere a Zegna. The trouser-half of each and every one of them is missing its crotch and Caroline, chip off the old block, is peering over them with her reading glasses on the end of her nose and the good scissors in her hand. She’s still in her nightie, freshly foiled hair loose and a silk kimono draped over her shoulders. She looks forlornly at her symbolic castration and sighs, just like Mum did all those years ago. ‘What a waste,’ she says, as she shakes her head. ‘Maybe not super-helpful at this point, Caroline darling,’ I say. She shrugs. ‘These trousers failed in their primary duty, which is to contain the penis. They have only themselves to blame.’

Henry is actually leaving Caroline for Martha. He’s taking her to Noosa for the weekend. When Caroline realized where Henry takes Martha, she chases after them. She’s quite miffed that the mistress is going to Noosa when the wife went to Dromana. I checked what it meant in Australian standards and here’s my American translation: for his lover, Henry planned a trip to the Keys, Florida when he took his wife to a coastal town in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, the neighbours Lesley and Craig stop by, wondering what’s happening. They’ve heard the fight between Caroline and Henry and their nosiness got the better of them, they needed to meddle.

Janice is the self-conscious micro-biologist sister, she divorced Alec two years before and although she dumped him, she hasn’t recovered yet. After Caroline and Henry left, she settles with the girls and decides to sleep in her sister’s room to be near them. She’s quite surprised to find a naked Craig in the bed with her when she wakes up. Apparently, Caroline has secrets too.

Next morning, new discovery. Alec arrives on her doorstep for his planned visit to the girls. Janice didn’t know he was still in touch with Caroline and Henry.

And the show goes on, with a fast-paced plot with witty dialogues. There are laughing-out-loud dialogues, like the one when the adults talk about sex using a gardening analogy to protect the little ears that are sitting in the room. I enjoyed Jordan’s piques:

Honestly Caroline, let it go. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ ‘That’s garbage,’ she says. ‘What doesn’t kill you joins forces with all the other things that don’t kill you. Then they all gang up together to kill you.’

I agree with Caroline. I dislike this “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying because I’m not sure it’s true. And it guilts people into thinking that if a tragedy makes them weak, they are wrong and should overcome it and feel stronger.

Janice is overwhelmed by all the people going in and out of the house and she struggles to avoid encounters between two wrong persons. She’s a peacemaker at heart and would like Caroline and Henry to patch things up for their daughters’ sake. And of course, things never go as she’d like and she has to be quick on her feet and adapt.

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts is an Australian vaudeville and it could be a theatre play with doors banging, husbands and lovers hiding behind doors or under the bed, misunderstandings, secrets, allusions and grand scenes. I would love to see this on stage.

You need to be in the right mood to enjoy this kind of book. And I was in the right frame of mind. I had a lot of fun reading it, it didn’t require a lot of brainpower but kept my mind busy and more importantly, it kept worry at bay. Mission accomplished, Toni Jordan!

Other reviews by Lisa and Guy.

  1. December 23, 2020 at 12:43 am

    I’m glad your daughter negotiated all the obstacles ok. I felt the same way in late March when flights were first shutting down and my son was trying to get back from central Africa.
    This book sounds like lots of fun, though I can’t read at all when I’m stressed. I like your US simile for Dromana and Noosa. In fact, it’s a very Melbourne joke. Dromana is a very suburban holiday destination – campsites on the Bay 75 km round from the city. What would be a French comparison? The River Seine and Nice?

    Like

    • December 23, 2020 at 8:34 am

      I remember that time you were worried about your son. Is he still in Australia?
      I’m sure you’d enjoy this book, it’s a nice one to listen to while trucking 🙂

      The French equivalent would be more like going to Corsica vs going to Bray-Dunes, on the North shore.

      Like

      • December 23, 2020 at 8:46 am

        Lou is teaching in the Northern Territory for the next couple of years, but in about 15 minutes he’ll be at Perth airport, home for Christmas

        Like

        • December 23, 2020 at 8:47 am

          Great! Enjoy your holiday with the family!

          Like

  2. December 23, 2020 at 3:06 am

    Thanks for the mention:)
    So pleased that all turned out well in the end… fingers crossed that the luggage turns up eventually!

    Like

    • December 23, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Thanks to you! Your blog is where I know Toni Jordan from.

      We were relieved when we saw her at the TGV station. That wild boar hitting the train ahead of hers and causing delay took the cake! They don’t know where her luggage is but she doesn’t need the clothes in this suitcase, different climate here!

      Liked by 1 person

      • December 23, 2020 at 9:19 am

        Right now, I’m guessing she couldn’t care less. How good it is that you are all together again for the festive season!

        Like

        • December 23, 2020 at 12:20 pm

          Yes, we’re happy be together. I wish you a happy festive season!

          Like

  3. December 23, 2020 at 5:30 am

    Oh Emma, my heart goes out to your daughter and you, what a nerve-wracking situation. Thank goodness she was finally able to make it home and hopefully her baggage will soon follow. Wishing you and your family a joyous holiday season!

    Like

    • December 23, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Thanks. She did well, made swift decisions and all’s well that ends well. The baggage is nothing compared to being stuck in lockdowned London.
      I wish you and your family a great holiday season too!

      Like

  4. December 23, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    So glad your daughter is home safely – have a wonderful Christmas!

    Like

  1. December 27, 2020 at 8:07 pm

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

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