Little Plum | Laura McPhee-Browne #AWWfiction

Dream: I am at my mother’s house, though it is also a mansion, and she is also a mother I never had but always wanted, the kind who knows and sees.

I should be writing reading responses to several other books that I finished a couple of weeks ago, but I’m starting with the most recent read because it’s easy. Or easier at least. And quick.

Little Plum is another sad girl story, and only last month I promised myself no more sad girl stories. But I enjoyed Cherry Beach (Laura McPhee-Browne’s previous sad girl book) more than I expected, so when I spotted an ARC of Little Plum at work I decided to add it to my lunch time pile. And despite the odds, I liked this one too.

Obviously Laura McPhee-Browne and I are on the same wavelength – I enjoy her writing and characters. Two out of two is a good record.

Coral is a twenty-something struggling to get going with her adult life. She probably has OCD and works hard to keep the negative voices in her head at bay. After a couple of dates/sexual encounters with Jasper, she finds herself pregnant. Her way of dealing with it, is by ignoring it. A phone app keeps her updated as to the growing size of her unborn baby by comparing it to food, hence the title of the book.

A trip to Poland with her childhood friend, Amber is a turning point in that she starts telling people she is pregnant. She eventually tells Jasper who is initally stunned but then supportive. Her mother is difficult, hence the dream sequence that starts the book (see above) but okay. The hormonal surge of labour and its aftermath naturally trigger a psychotic meltdown in Coral. But with lots of support and some time in a residential facility, things come good for Coral and the baby. And Jasper.

A fairly straight-forward sad girl story. Realistic, messy yet hopeful.

In fact, Little Plum showed me I can still simply enjoy a book for the story. I don’t necessarily have to learn something new or be challenged. Undemanding is sometimes exactly what I need from a book. It meant enough to the author to write it; and I enjoyed it enough to read it through. I was immersed in an interesting story with characters I came to care about. I’d hate to lose this – the ability for a book to take me away from my everyday life, to be a distraction, a solace, a comfort or a balm, like I have lost with movies.

Once upon a time movie-going was a BIG thing for me. During my mid-twenties to mid-thirties I watched a LOT of films. At the cinema and on TV. I hired VHS and DVD’s. I recorded the old B&W movies replayed at 3am on the ABC and I devoured the world movies on SBS when it finally came to Mudgee in the late 1990’s.

I started off just enjoying the story, the pure escapism of it all, but the more movies I watched, the more demanding I became. Good stories were no longer enough. I wanted GREAT stories, I wanted stunning cinematography, I wanted intelligent writing, I wanted to be stretched, challenged, stimulated.

I cannot remember which movie broke me. But I now rarely go the cinema. I resent the time it takes away from other things I want to do. I find most of the movies derivative or too violent. I’m bored by them. Or appalled. I don’t know how it happened. I hope this never happens with books.

Little Plum may not suit everyone, but it worked just fine for me.

Epigraphs: I have an inordinate, inexplicable fascination with the epigraphs chosen by authors. It’s connected to the delight I feel when I discover other authors, books, poets within books as well. If you do not share this obsession, feel free to skip the next section!

McPhee-Browne chose three epigraphs for Little Plum.

Little plum,
said the mother to her son,
I want to bite,
I want to chew,
I will eat you up.
--- Anne Sexton, 'Hansel and Gretel' (1971)

From Transformations (1971) – I have to include the blurb on Goodreads – it’s a cracker! “The fairy tale-based works of the tortured confessional poet, whose raw honesty and wit in the face of psychological pain have touched thousands of readers.

Hansel and Gretel reveals allusions to the Holocaust and the sin of gluttony. Plus a few mothering issues.

They say, but where is your baby
And I say, no no, my baby my baby,
They say, yes yes, look at your beautiful baby.
---Dorothea Lasky, 'The Birth' (2015)

From an interview with Lasky

So much of Milk for me is about the pain of distance and miscommunication. For me, becoming a mother was such a disconnected experience and definitely one where I felt there was a lot of pain: physically, emotionally and psychically. I feel this is true for many entryways into motherhood and other stages of one’s life that are transformational. My first birth was deeply traumatic, as were the months and years after it. I also had a hard time reconciling being a “literary” person and embracing motherhood—as it felt to me like the two weren’t always happy confidants.

Given Coral’s disconnect at various stages of her pregnancy, this is a particularly apt poem and poet.

I carried my fear of the world
to my children, but they refused it.
---Maggie Smith, 'What I Carried' (2017)

From Good Bones (2017). This collection of poems took on a new life during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The book went viral, with various poems/stanzas being tweeted and instagrammed at a frentic pace. We all have to learn to live with or overcome our fears at some point otherwise they will overwhelm us. I hope that Coral learns how to lay down her fears.

Title: Little Plum
Author: Laura McPhee-Browne
ISBN: 9781922790064
Imprint: Text Publishing
Published: 7 February 2023
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 256
Dates Read: 31st January 2023 - 21st February 2023
This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

14 thoughts on “Little Plum | Laura McPhee-Browne #AWWfiction

  1. What a striking cover, this sounds good Brona, I think there is a real emphasis in contemporary publishing on what a book can teach us, or what it is ‘about’ when in fact, sometimes all we want as readers is to be transported into a good story.


    1. The cover for Cherry Breach was striking too, part of the reason I picked it up in the first place 🙂

      I’ve had a couple of recent experiences where (what felt like) everyone else but me enjoyed a book purely for the story and the characetrs. So I did feel a little concerned that I might have lost the ability to just read something for the ‘fun’ of it. I was relieved to find this was not so.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love epigraphs too … how can people not? I don’t always mention them, but I often do. I will certainly be mentioning it for my current novel which I’ll hopefully write up next week. BTW my post on that great book that I said might be up yesterday is finally up. Just saying!

    As for Little Plum, I wonder whether that dream alludes to that Bible verse … in my father’s house there are many mansions … if it were not so …. Etc. I don’t know the Bible well but I did have to learn that one in my youth.

    I can enjoy a good story as long as it and it’s characters aren’t cliched. And, I still love the movies.


    1. Ohh great I will check out your new post after work tonight.

      My knowledge of the bible is even sketchier than yours so I cannot say. The rest of the dream paragraph was the usual confusion and blur of detail & emotion mostly about a mother.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Probably not, but it just jumped out at me. Being a little older than you, I was of the generation that went to Sunday School. I’m glad now, because the things I learnt are useful, but I got to the point in my late teens when I realised I wasn’t believing it, feeling it, so it was time to go!


        1. My parents sent us to Sunday school too through our primary years. I remember my findky the little beachside church we went to for a couple of years at Ettalong Beach where we dung a lot of hymns, which I loved doing. But then we started going to a bigger one at Umina that trued too hard with the god & bible stuff and they lost me completely. It was the one time & place I was not a straight A student!!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t say anything about the book but, movies: I have always gone only to arthouse movies. I got accused of hypocrisy when I went to see Terrence Mallick’s (war movie) The Thin Red Line. I was a bit more relaxed at home, and might have watched every Fred Astaire movie, but have hardly had the tv on these last five years.


    1. I still go the movies a couple of times a year with Mr Books but see it more as a date night than a movie going experience.
      The one movie I still enjoy watching whenever it comes on tv again is Matt Damon’s The Martian. But stories about loneliness & resilience tend to resonate with me…


  4. This is a good reminder to pull Cherry Beach from my TBR where it’s been sitting ever since I bought it as a new release!

    I used to be a massive movie / cinema fanatic, and circa 1994-6 would go up to 4 times a week! Like you, I became more choosy in what I would go to see and developed a taste for art house and foreign language films. In my 40s I became more interested in full length documentaries. But the obsession eventually waned because (1) lack of time (2) cost and (3) badly behaved audiences!!! Up until covid hit, I’d go to the cinema maybe once a month, but I’d carefully research what I was going to see and (when I lived in London) only go to the art house cinema in Notting hill cos it had fancy seats and a bar! I can’t remember the last film I saw at the cinema. I wanted to see The Banshees of Inisherin but decided we’d forego sitting in a crowded space and just watch at home when it eventually turns up on a streaming service…


    1. I’m curious about badly behaved audiences, that sounds unpleasant indeed!
      I am now so out of the loop with movie going I have no idea of what’s new, who’s making what, what’s good or not. Even trying to get through a series on tv takes us forever (we’ve been trying to get through the latest season of The Crown since it was released in Nov. last year. I think we’re up to ep. 5 or 6).


      1. When I say badly behaved audiences, I mean those people who go to the cinema but think they’re still at home in their living rooms — the people that chat, put their feet on the seats in front of them, munch on food (and rattle their chip packets) or, worst of all, look at their phones throughout so if you are sitting next to them you are distracted by a screen of blue light. This behaviour also happens at the theatre, which I never understand given theatre tickets are so pricey. Why would you pay $100+ to see a show but then spend all that time looking at your phone ??? 😱


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s