In brief: Kathy works in a record store and has done for years. But when things start changing around her, she’s not comfortable. Is it time to change too?
The good: Enjoyed the music parts.
The not-so-good: Kathy could be a frustrating character at times.
Why I chose it: Sounded fun – music and an Australian setting Thank you to Penguin for the copy.
Publisher: Vintage (Penguin)
Setting: Mainly Brisbane, Australia
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Her Fidelity is a unique spin on the coming-of-age story. Think a late bloomer in the MeToo era in the setting of record store – there’s rampant sexism, annoying customers and the realisation that your friends aren’t necessarily going to grow at the same pace. They are just some of the conundrums facing almost 30 Kathy.
Kathy works in a record store in Brisbane’s CBD and has done since before leaving school. It’s the old school kind of record store – plenty of dust, stacks of stock and a semblance of order until you run into an employee who seems to have been there for decades. I think every city has that type of store and it’s up to your own personal bravery whether you dare to ask the staff whether they have what you want for fear of your music taste being haughtily shot down. Dusty’s Records is just like that (Beyonce free zone), and Kathy and Mel are the only women who work there. Mel is older and knows how to deflect the male colleagues’ sexist ways, but Kathy tends to get entangled on drinking nights and fall into their expectations (e.g., cleaning the worst of the shop). Kathy, Mel and Kathy’s school friend Alex are great friends outside of work and they’ve always had each other’s backs. But then Mel decides she wants a change and Alex is manoeuvring her career and life as a mother. They want different things, and it shocks Kathy to the core. She’s not comfortable with change, but perhaps it’s time to take stock of her own life.
Kathy is a multifaceted character, combining bravado and sarcasm with someone who genuinely doesn’t like change and lets the people around her know, often to her detriment. Occasionally she comes across as very self-centred and selfish, mainly in response to her friends’ actions for change and growth. However, this is an opportunity for Kathy to grow too however reluctantly. For me, this is when her character became more likeable as Kathy made some difficult decisions and saw them through. Wise woman Mel is a great foil to Kathy’s immaturity and inexperience. Her words may come across as harsh at times to Kathy, but Mel was definitely a character worth listening to. Kathy’s other friend Alex was not as detailed (we get some background that they practically grew up together because of Alex’s mother). Her struggles are relegated to the background and as the narrative is Kathy in the first person, that’s understandable.
Her Fidelity as you might expect contains a lot of music references, as well as other pop culture (TV shows like Dawson’s Creek right through to movies such as Wayne’s World). This was fun, although having the year of every album, series and movie in brackets did seem a little pretentious at times as if Kathy’s showing off. Later in the novel, Kathy’s pop culture takes a hit when she realises that she’s not up with the cool young kids who listen to FKA Twigs and Beyonce but rather stuck in a music rut from history, influenced by her male colleagues. To stay one of the gang, she had to fit in with their tastes (not all bad, but definitely not open to newcomers or non-rock and roll). This is another type of coming of age for Kathy – realising that she’s free to like what she wants and be vocal about it too. The story culminates in Kathy growing in confidence and finding her own way, perhaps influenced by a certain Australian celebrity, perhaps not. The ending is uplifting, resulting in a read that charts a character’s growth.
This sounds an unusual setting for a book. Something quite different.