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Man of Clay

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362 pages5 hours

Summary

A woman yearns to keep her husband even though he left her long ago. Connie is Jude's first wife and, as she builds the last ceramic collection she will ever create, she reflects on a life lived with Jude, all his wives and all his children, in the last part of the twentieth century. Jude is a biologist and, like many herpetologists in the nineties, perplexed by disappearing frogs. Connie begins to understand him through his work but, by then, it's too late.
Connie meets Jude at university in 1960 when, in her first biology lab, she is unable to kill a frog. He helps her to see beauty in dissection. They marry, travel, return to Sydney in the '70s and have a son. After an IUD-caused infertility, Connie finds Jude the perfect second wife, Zita, a florist. Jude and Zita have two children. They all move into Connie's inherited block of flats just as Zita declares her independence. Before too long, a third wife, Simone, delivers two children to Jude over the next few years.
Connie is able to watch her beloved Jude have children with two other women but now, the possibility of one more wife proves too much. Connie's son is involved and the entire family shatters as if they were all cracked clay in the kiln. They leave her, even finally, Jude. Her turmoil finds release when she breaks him down into ingredients for her piecemeal golem. Humans have much in common with frogs. Metamorphosis parallels the reactions of mud and glaze in a kiln. Man of Clay is about family, frogs and art. The kiln fires hotter than the crematorium.

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