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March 21, 2023

Shelley Davidow’s novel looks at betrayed women in Byron Bay

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Shelley Davidow

Queensland author and academic, Shelley Davidow’s latest novel High Infidelity, tracks the fortunes and re-emergence of Lara, runaway English wife, as she rediscovers herself in Byron Bay.

High Infidelity is Davidow’s forty-fifth publication. She says she has been writing and publishing for a very long time. ‘It feels normal, but good, in the sense that the momentum is unceasing,’ she says. ‘I was hoping to keep up with my age – a book for every year I’ve lived – but I’m starting to lose ground!’

Davidow’s previous two books were memoirs – this one is a long way from that. Davidow says she wrote High Infidelity for her own enjoyment after seven years of turning her life and her family’s lives into art through writing her memoirs. ‘That is intense in an ethical, literary and emotional way – and demands fidelity to an emotional truth,’ she says.

‘High Infidelity, also, is actually full of true stories. After being stopped at the airport one winter on my way to England with my family, and told I couldn’t fly because visa regulations for South Africans had changed, and after having rented out both my house and car, I had to call a friend and ask for a place to stay.’

Davidow says she spent that summer in the friend’s expansive mansion with a group of lost souls. ‘They were three betrayed middle-aged women and a gorgeous twenty-something year old, raw-food eating, glowing young man who thought he was the answer to everyone’s prayers, and who also thought he had the world figured out,’ she said.

‘In that month High Infidelity’s characters, Ruby, Mario and Lara were born. I guess I turned that disaster into art – and that tragedy of a lost holiday with my family (who did go off to England, being British citizens) into a comedy.’

Lara is the heroine who arrived at the same time as the story. ‘A recently heart-broken Lara had to go somewhere and do something. I was staying in Byron Bay, so Lara had to be there with me. While perusing The Echo, I saw some intriguing ads by tantric sex-workers, and I thought, that’s something Lara would never have imagined doing – calling one of those numbers.

‘She does though, because she’s on a new adventure of her own, and she’s making the rules.’

There is a happy and satisfying end for Lara but she has to work for it.

Davidow says that readers will take whatever message has meaning for them from that.

‘The theme is one of self-discovery. The trauma of betrayal lives beneath the skins of so many people, and I wanted to explore that – using humour and pathos and allowing the characters to be real and honest. It is normal to experience envy, rage, self-hatred, world-hatred, but these can be transformed and Lara does that. Also, because this is a romantic comedy – a happy ending was always what I wanted for Lara.

‘I’m exploring deep issues of love and sex and death and relationships, and what really matters, regardless of our genders and sexual orientations – and I’ve enjoyed allowing my characters to rant about love and sex and death because that’s pretty much what we’re all dealing with much of the time anyway.’

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