Monday, November 19, 2012

The Tour, by Denise Scott

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Denise Scott’s new memoir trawls the comedian’s family history for many an entertaining story, delivering lots of laughs and occasional pathos along the way. At its heart The Tour is about Scott’s complex relationship with her mother, coping with a middle-age crisis, and ultimately the importance of enjoying life simply for itself.

The Tour is Denise Scott’s second memoir, following All That Happened at Number 26. This second book opens with a personal crisis, The Tour of the title, a Queensland comedy festival that Scott had signed up for. Middle-aged and beside herself with panic, she wonders if her whole career has been a complete failure and questions whether she’s any good at stand-up comedy.

This episode constitutes the prologue, called ‘The awakening’. Things go from bad to worse and Scott ends up vomiting her guts out by the roadside, her young colleagues look on in embarrassment. Strangely enough, this purging seems to have a liberating effect and she confesses to feeling wonderful afterwards. This is the spiritual awakening of the prologue’s title. To find out why the roadside puke was so wonderfully freeing we of course have to read on. (It’s obvious a clever editor has whipped the book into a compelling format, cliff- hanger prologue included.)

From here on in it’s a straight autobiography, with a central focus being Scott’s mother and her wish to escape her fairly strict upbringing. The early chapters dealing with the conservative and quite nutty Marg Scott are hilarious. Many of the bizarre and eccentric stories involving Marg made my jaw drop and my inner voice cry ‘no way!’, like when Marg gave Denise sleeping tablets before she took a bath, causing her to almost drown. And that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

In her quest to break out of dull suburban living, Scott regales her readers with tales of adolescent sex, adventure and near death experiences. Her stand up skills are evident throughout, turning her adventures and embarrassing personal stories into a laugh-a-page reading experience. Scott entertains but also delivers pathos and insight into middle-age life. The book’s later scenes, involving her mother’s dark family history being revealed, and the devastating impact it had on her, make for a moving memoir.

It’s a cliché to say it, but I will because it’s true: The Tour is a brave and funny book about grief, coping with getting older, and figuring out what's important in life.

The Tour, by Denise Scott. Published by Hardie Grant. ISBN: 9781740669054  RRP: 24.95