Set in Sydney, in the 1960’s, The Freudian Slip is a fictional recreation of Marion von Adlerstein’s experience in the world of advertising. It is luxuriantly detailed, recreating the era with iconic brands on every second page and mannerisms and turns of phrase that will probably resonate with many Australian readers. It’s reminiscent of that TV series (you know, set in New York, in the 1950’s) but with undeniable Australian flavour. And, in a nice quirk it’s told from the point of view of three women in the industry – three career women, when such a term was not at all as common as it might be today.
For a woman in 1960’s Australian industry, her career options were generally limited to typist or secretary. So in Marion von Adlerstein’s book, the three main characters represent three ways that a woman might have risen past that stifling threshold, in a big advertising firm. There’s Stella, the secretary promoted to copywriter on the strength of what seems a bit of lucky timing. There’s Bea, Stella’s new boss, creative director and driver for some of the firm’s best business. And there’s Desi, a producer in the firm’s television department, being forced to decide between career and marriage, as many other women were at the time.
There is a great sense of fun in the book as we see Stella’s naive schemes to make herself seem better than she is, Bea’s essential loneliness despite professing that her career is all she needs, and Desi’s struggle to reconcile herself to marriage (seen by her old-money family as the pinnacle of achievement) over career (her preferred pinnacle!) It’s also a fabulous, thoroughly and richly detailed exploration of Australian culture in the 1960’s. Marion von Adlerstein’s wealth of experience as a career woman, and a career woman in advertising, both within and outside Australia, is beautifully brought to life in this novel.
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