Books & Literature

Book Review: Tipping, by Anna George

CONTEMPORARY FICTION: An Instagram scandal at a grammar school sparks outrage in an exclusive bayside suburb and upends the lives of the families involved.

A well-paced story ripped from the headlines of today that engages the reader with wit and emotion.

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going,” says the opening line of one of my favourite hymns. In the case of Tipping, it is the combination of an overwhelmed mother being locked in a car and a sexting scandal that somehow involves her son that leads to a radical reveal of the ugly underside of an elite Melbourne Grammar School. Liv Winsome, her lawyer husband Duncan, and fellow school mother, Jess, lead the charge to change a long-standing attitude towards women at the school. Aided by a slightly overbearing guru and their own children, they go on a rollercoaster of a ride to try and create real and meaningful change in their immediate community. While many are pleased, there are also quite a few who are not and the road to change is far from smooth.

Anna George’s third novel has a distinctly different feel from her earlier work. Drawing from the headlines of today, George creates a world that is highly realistic and often uncomfortably so.

George has a gift for creating vibrant characters who can really capture the attention of the audience without going too far over the top. The many characters encountered throughout the novel are not really caricatures, but rather reflections of the many people in our society. Whether it is the harried families of our main characters, or the old guard of the fictional school, the characters feel all too true.

Tipping is a perfect snapshot of the 2020/2021 much-needed “vibe” for change and many will relate to the struggles described within the 400 pages of the novel. This is not merely about a sexting scandal; it is about how an institution allows young men to grow up believing that such things are trivial—even okay. When the winds of change arrive, it knocks more than a few leaves around.

George does not waste energy on lengthy chapters or on deep philosophical discussions. She is more focused on letting the narrative speak for itself and allowing the reader to have the broader discussion afterwards. There are many scenes of great humour and also many scenes of great poignancy peppered throughout and it is a credit to the author that the writing never feels bloated or hollow. The story moves at a cracking pace (helped by the shift in narrative focus in every chapter and the relatively small chapter sizes) and most readers will gobble this book up fairly quickly.

The ending allows for the possibility of further adventures and fallouts from the events of this novel and this reviewer hopes we see a little more of these wonderful characters from this spectacular writer.   

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Published by: Penguin Books
Released: 2 March 2021
Approx RRP: $32.99

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