Imago is a story of love and obsession, of seduction and transformations. The threading together of skins, of bodies. It’s a story of metamorphosis, taking and eating, larvae and pupae, the risks of stagnation. Possibilities of death.
Imago was translated into German under the title Molly und Mary : die Geschichte einer Freundschaft (Fischer Verlag)
1 the final and fully developed stage of an insect after all metamorphoses e.g. a butterfly or beetle.
2 Psychoanal. an idealised concept of a loved one formed in childhood and retained uncorrected in adult life.
Molly Rose Moon dreamt of worms the night before she married Jimmy Brown in Tooting Bec. Milky sticky wet worms wriggled and fed off one another in clumps all over the bed. Breast deep. The young couple were on their way to Australia. When Molly agrees to go on a journey across hemispheres she’s looking for an escape from home. Once there she meets Marj. Fat Marj.
‘Marj’s lips were the colour of the finest loquat jelly that summer. From a jar her friend gave her, Molly spread the syrupy mixture onto buttery toast each breakfast. The night before Kevin arrived home from a fortnight in Yass, the two women drank hot black tea together. The ceiling fan whirred. As they parted, Molly licked Marj’s transparent-red lips in a nip of a kiss. Loquat jelly lips. Sugary sweet and sticky.’
Imago won the 1997 ACT Book of the Year Award.
The judges report read:
Imago is a disquieting powerful, beautifully crafted exploration of a woman’s coming of age. Told in a series off flashbacks, it is the story of Molly Rose Moone’s painful emigration and ultimate acclamation to the harsh Australian landscape and the strange, overwhelming love for the woman who becomes her mentor. Imago is as compelling as it is disturbing.
Imago tells of the migration of Molly Rose, a young British immigrant, virgin bride of the hopelessly inhibited soil scientist Jimmy from England to Australia. Jimmy is lost culturally and spiritually while his young wife is immediately seduced by the country – its smells, climate, light – and Marj, the hospitable neighbour.
Marj was fat. ‘But it wasn’t only her bulk that interested molly. It was the colour and texture of the skin – taut, brown, hardened. Skin stretched and hair bleached. Good-looking, hardworking skin.’ The friendship that develops between Marj and Molly Rose fills this story of love and obsession, of seductions and transformations.
Images: cover of German translation; linocut of a fly by Fiona Edge reprinted with permission; cover of Australian/English version; Sweet River, words by Francesca Rendle-Short, music by Glyn Lehmann, reprinted with permission