“In the Mood” is an extraordinary novel about the second world war and its aftermath, about Australia during a period of great upheaval, and, most importantly, about a woman (Catherine) and a man (Robert) struggling to reawaken their intimacy after being separated by the war and by all that has happened that they cannot share.
Like Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” “In the Mood” takes a well known historical period and, through the author’s great skill in bringing characters to life and disrupting clichés, offers a deeply original and intelligent account of life that is hauntingly universal. It is the first time I have ever read a book about the second world war where I felt like I could truly empathise with the female character, so often in any story about war women stoically stay behind, “keeping the home fires burning” and are portrayed either as victims or as jolly good time girls. Catherine is a remarkable character: she is sharp, vulnerable and clever and her journey and her choices stayed with me long after I finished reading.
But the novel isn’t just Catherine’s story, it also gives equal footing to Robert’s story of war in New Guinea and of trying to reintegrate into the world of work, marriage and domesticity. He dreamed of home and of Catherine the whole time he was away, but how can he be the same person after what he has done and seen? And Catherine has so clearly changed too, but how and why? Like a marriage, “In the Mood” weaves the stories of both characters together in a dynamic exploration of the different kinds of warfare engaged in by men and by women, ambition and its social constraints in Australia and the battles and compromises of survival and intimacy.
I can’t remember reading a novel that has moved me as deeply as “In the Mood” and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
What the critics had to say:
Crisply written and dramatic… In The Mood is compelling fiction… Bloom’s novel conjures a period with great intimacy and realism, yet wears its research lightly – detail plays second fiddle to credible, deeply human characters, and the prose remains taut and evocative throughout. Comparisons to Ruth Park are inevitable – and with more novels set in the 20th century to come, it will be intriguing to see where Bloom goes next.
Cameron Woodhead, The Age
Few books about war have been told from this perspective, which makes Bloom’s book both a revelation and essential reading. IN THE MOOD is a tour de force of insightful and concentrated emotional writing.
‘Gould’s belief that the artistic imagination answers a need for explanations more ample and exact holds true for wartime fiction such as Laura Bloom’s In The Mood. … The value of Bloom’s approach lies in her sensitive inquiry into Catherine’s dilemma as the war ends. … The book is a tribute to the experience of women such as Catherine who suffered social opprobrium and veteran anger. …She explores those recesses of 20th-century history with conviction.’
Stella Clarke, The Australian Literary Review
‘At a time when our soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, In The Mood is a reminder of the reality of war – the battles scenes are closely based on first hand oral history accounts – and the fact that for soldiers and the people they come home to, it never ends.’
Senior Lifestyle South Coast
Writing about War Worth Reading: A review of Alice Oswald’s MEMORIAL and Laura Bloom’s IN THE MOOD
Laura Bloom’s new book: “In the Mood” is about war. The war that soldiers brought home together with their guilt for what they did and for their own survival. It is a war shattered in a million pieces that fill the air like a swarm of locusts getting into people’s nostrils and lungs and each and every one of their thoughts. It is a powerful spell that breaks only when the protagonists state what they want and go for it.
In the Mood is a great novel; beautifully written and expertly situated at an historic point of flux: when the war is finally over, when life can continue and everything is possible. It is about a society ridden with guilt for what it has asked its men to endure and so demands that its women forget their competence and step back into their kitchens to free space for the returning soldiers.
Social control is dissected and exposed for what it is: a web of obligations and constraints that cover every aspect of communal human life: work, neighbourhood, family. A brutal dance of demands and obligations that commands actions and shapes lives.
And love of course, this book is about love: the intimacy that feeds it and the secrets that kill it but in Laura Bloom’s unsentimental pecking order, survival comes before love.
Laura Bloom’s new book is a terrific read. Its characters feel real; their choices and mistakes twisting the story in unexpected, though believable ways. In the Mood will enrapture and engross you in a way that only a great book can. Its destiny is to become a modern classic.
What readers had to say:
Hi Laura. I heard you speak at the Byron Bay Writers Festival and could not wait to read “In the Mood” -have just finished it and LOVED IT!!!! You are such an accomplished and sensitive writer. It is a beautifully crafted novel. Can’t wait to read your next one. Please hurry up and finish it.
All the best, Rosie
I have just finished “In the Mood” which I thoroughly enjoyed and am now passing on to my wife for her female viewpoint. I found it very moving and an interesting attempt to get inside the psyche of people forced to undergo the disruption of war. I, too, love the music of the era and was attracted to buy the novel by the title as I recognized the Glenn Miller reference. I think you should be very proud of your efforts with this novel and look forward to your next, as I am sure you will be seething with ideas for another!
I loved “In the Mood” so very much! It was a novel of terse dimensions and tremendous insight. The characters were very real and viscerally pitted against and at times with, one another.
I loved the depth of the novel and the story was magnificent. Well done to Laura on a marvellous achievement. I didn’t want it to end.
Read more reviews of IN THE MOOD on Goodreads