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Book Review: The Book of Grandparents: A Celebration of a Very Special Kind of Love

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It’s easy, when you’re in the throes of parenthood, to forget how absolutely joyful the grandparent role is. Of course there are exceptions – grandparents who step in on behalf of their children and become pseudo-parents, but for many, it’s a time when you can put those years of experience to good use without having to give up your quiet, free time or autonomy. Though the parenting experience has been well explored in literature, there hasn’t been much on the delights of grandparenting. This relatively small book fills that gap, and provides a series of brief, easy to read, and often pithy and personal essays by well known Australians on their experience in becoming grandparents.

It’s quite lovely to read about the intensity of these famous grandparents’ feelings for their grandchildren as they reflect on how becoming a grandparent has changed them. Tom Keneally, for example, is both humorous and self-deprecating as he passes around the pictures:

Though a far from pretty member of the species myself, I want them to sing the beauty of the children.

Mary Moody muses on the way in which her disabled granddaughter is accepted and welcomed into the family. John Newcombe talks about the way he can redress his absences as a father by being present for his grandchildren now that he’s retired. Jenny Kee, naturally, puts her own distinctive style into reflection as she lists the many facets of her granddaughter Estella, and how they excite and energise her. Tim Bowden, or Pop as he likes to be known, finds his inner singer as he croons to his granddaughter Em, and on it goes through June Dally-Watkins, John Williamson, Bev Brock, Sir Gustav Nossal, Maggie Beer, Normie Rowe, Leah Purcell, and Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell. In between each essay are proverbs and quotes that help take the personal into a broader context.

Most of the essays are five or six pages, and each of them has the unique flavour of its author – full of their sensual perspectives, and the nature of their involvement. Some live with their grandchildren and so are participants in every milestone. Others visit or are visited occasionally and so have a kind of seasonal perspective, but each of them fulfils a critical role in the lives of their grandchildren, and has found their own lives richer as a result. All of the essays provide a certain amount of advice for other grandparents, a sense of joy and happiness, and that broad perspective that comes with age and experience.

Obviously this would be a nice gift book for any grandparent, particularly the new one. It would be a lovely gesture on the birth of a firstborn grandchild, and provide the kind of reflection that stimulates more of the same. Though small, the book is nicely packaged with a folding cover, and a crisp design between each essay.


The Book of Grandparents:
A Celebration of a Very Special Kind of Love

ABC Books
Paperback, 176 pages, AUD $27.95, ISBN: 9780733324673, March 2009

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About Magdalena Ball

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.