Comedienne Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning is the surprising, insightful and heartwarming story of a girl struggling to find her place in the world.
Magda Szubanski is a name most well associated with some of Australia’s best comedy offerings. Be it Sharon Strzelecki from Kath and Kim, Esme Hoggett from childhood favourite Babe or even Happy Feet’s Miss Viola, almost anyone can name one of her characters if prompted.
But Reckoning is not like other actor memoirs, which detail the celebrity’s journey from nobody to renowned household name. Rather it is the tale of the girl behind the fame, the English born daughter of a Polish underground war hero and her struggle to overcome her father’s failures and insecurities in order to follow her own destiny.
In fact, the reader would have to have read three-quarters of the book before her acting career is even mentioned. Though this is surprising, it is not disappointing. Szubanski’s definition of success, it would seem is not her achievement of fame and fortune, but rather being comfortable in one’s own skin, something to which everyone has at some point in time aspired.
As a child, Magda Szubanski wanted to become a doctor and fulfil the ambitions her father had to cast aside when Hitler invaded his beloved country. But as time progressed, she began to see that she could not live up to her family’s expectations, finding that she did not fit into the mould carved out for her, particularly in relation to her career choices and, perhaps more noticeably, her sexuality.
Studying an arts degree at university, she continued to struggle against the norm before eventually abandoning prospects of a higher education in pursuit of a less conventional life. During this time, she became more at ease with her sexuality, her history and the way it shaped her into the person Australians the nation over love.
Upon picking up this book, readers would be forgiven for expecting a laugh a minute. I certainly did, particularly given this comedienne’s proven reputation for making her audience chuckle. Though the story Szubanski delivers is, in comparison, much more serious than first imagined, it is no less intriguing.
Szubanski’s tale is compelling, her writing inviting and honest. From the opening line to the closing one, Szubanksi had me hooked. Forget the author’s public profile, this is a book which has something for everyone. It reassures readers that despite what others may believe; we are all entitled to our own success (regardless of what that may be), and opportunity is ours for the taking.
This is truly inspiring read if there ever was one. It’s available through Text Publishing.
[Author/Editor Note: This review was originally published by cargoART Magazine 2016.]