Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sydney's wealthy worlds

Ros Reines 
Soon after my latest novel, The Social Diary (Allen & Unwin), was published earlier this year, people kept asking me who the characters were based on and whether or not the story line actually happened.

This is one of the drawbacks of being a journalist turned novelist, many readers forget that a novel is first and foremost a work of fiction. Many expected that I had simply threaded my Sunday Telegraph' gossip columns together and connected them with a plot. If only it was that easy.

A lot of champagne is consumed in The Social Diary
Perhaps it's  to be expected because just like my column, much of The Social Diary, is set in Sydney's eastern suburbs but it's back in the eighties, which was a key moment in the city's social history. This was when the `old money' set was suddenly swamped by a brash breed of entrepreneurs who cared little for traditional social mores. They were outrageously flashy and downright decadent, taking over the restaurants for endless lunches and almost draining the city of vintage French bubbles. 

Even more confronting, while the establishment families had always shunned mentions in the media, the new guard thrived on it - however they didn't just want their pictures just  in the social pages but splashed across  the front page. They were contenders not pretenders.

Meanwhile they held over-the-top parties, which almost rivalled  the recent wedding of Auburn deputy mayor, Salim Mehajer. But unfortunately while eighties' entrepreneurs had plenty of choppers at their disposal none had thought of hiring fighter jets to make a statement.
Salim arrives by helicopter for his lavish wedding which reportedly cost $1.4 million.

The central figure in The Social Diary is a gossip columnist, Savannah Stevens who resists certain identities who try to bribe her to put them in the paper and she also has to dodge the odd  businessmen who is desperate to stop her writing unflattering stories about them. Finally she has to make the ultimate choice: Does she take on a thrillingly precarious life with a new partner or sacrifice it for a career changing story? It's a moral dilemma.
And just like Savannah, I am also a columnist  and I was working as a journalist in Sydney back in the eighties, having just returned from London as a music writer. There are a lot of similarities between Savannah and myself because it's always easier to write about something you know well but I am not Savannah.

So is my novel inspired by  real identities and are any of them Jewish?

Certainly there are lots of diverse  characters in the  book whom you might recognise. After all, when it comes to being colourful and flamboyant, the Jewish community have pretty much got that covered thanks to our rich culture, our sardonic humour and the resilience that is part of our DNA. We might be only a small community in numbers but it is almost impossible not to write a novel set in Sydney's east without at least one Jewish cameo.

Double Bay cafe
However in The Social Diary, the identity of those who inspired the characters has been well concealed so as not to offend.  There's only a fleeting glimpse of few identities and also restaurants and bars that once existed in the heart of Double Bay.

Right now I am working on the sequel, which is set in the current time in Sydney and Melbourne and there will also be people leaping from the pages whom you might recognise -  but it is first and foremost a novel.

Ros Reines and Eva Novy will talk about Double Bay and much more in their session with Kathy Shand, Schmoozing in the Eastern Suburbs on Sunday August 30, 5:45pm - 6:45pm at the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival. 
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