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Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr

Preloved by Shirley Marr1 Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr

According to Etsy, anything more than 30 years old is considered to be vintage, meaning that pretty soon, mullets, blue eye shadow and Labyrinth'will be able to be found online at horrendously marked up prices, all in the name of a vintage 80s revival. In three years time, Im'going to be vintage. Dear God.

But anyway. Though being a child of the 90s was pretty damn coolCaptain Planet, tencel jeans and sparkly butterfly hair clips, anyone?theres something about the 80s thats just utterly awesome (shoulderpads and hyperconsumerism aside). Im totally writing this while listening to Sly Fox, Roxette and Blondie, by the way.

So when Shirley Marrs Preloved'opened with a fight scene between three, yes three, Jason Donovans, a Neighbours-era Kylie Minogue and an O Ren Ishi-ii-inspired Princess Buttercup, I was pretty much sold. But then things get even better. Protagonist Amy Lee (whose Chinese-Australian mum is totally not a Tiger mum, and doesnt even make her go to Kumon after school) finds a dodgy 80s locket complete with a dazzling plastic rainbow that would put Rainbox Brite to shame, and despite all of her mothers warnings about vengeful spirits and hungry ghosts lurking everywhere (they really aremy husband is way too afraid to go to his temple during the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts), sets about opening it.

And, then, voom! Amy is haunted by a ghost of decades past. A vintage ghostwell, almost. Admittedly, Logans not the most scary of ghosts, being more inclined to spend his spookin time singing along to 80s TV ads and floofing his hair. But really, theres only so much eyeliner that should be in a room at one time, and Amy finds herself wondering what on earth to do with her new ghostly friend. Fortunately, Amys mum is on the job: as the owner of an antiques store she has quite the eye for anything vintage that might be crossing over the threshold of her home. And though poor Amy might get a reprieve from Chinese school on Saturdays, shes certainly not spared from the various cures and treatments that come out of the woodwork when a ghost is in ones midst. (Aside: my husband has had any flat hes lived in since moving out of home cleansed by his Buddhist master. Only our current flat has thus far managed to escape this, largely due to the fact that his master is now in his 80s. Hes, like, totes vintage.)

But Amys struck by the niggling feeling that perhaps she doesnt want Logan banished to the afterlife so that he can be reincarnated as a poodle or some other harmless but overly coiffed animal. For all of his mullety goodness, skinny tie obsession, and penchant for quoting Boy George hes actually kind oface. A bit bomdigity, even. As much as Amy doesnt want to admit it, hes better company than her self-obsessed, Im-so-misunderstood, totally unmainstream friend Rebecca, the one who shops at Hot Topic and listens to A Fire Inside and confuses the lyrics of Banarama with the poetry of Sylvia Plath. But when Logan drops a bombshell about Rebecca being the reincarnation of his high school sweetheart, Amy starts to wonder whether the three of them are connected in some sort of karmic fashionand hits the microfiche to try to solve the mystery. And thus the concept of preloved, touched upon in so many ways throughout the book, begins to become ever more meaningful.

Shirley Marr, I salute you for somehow squishing the essence of the 80s (well, only the fun bitsnone of that Wall Street stuff) and the Australian-Chinese culture Ive married into all into one slim, super-quick volume. Theres nary a page without an 80s reference that had me chortling or some reference to a Chinese-ism to which I would point and shriek yes! Yes, thats my mother-in-law! Its ridiculous, rambly and all sorts of nonsense, and soon-to-be-vintage folk like me will be professing their love for it. Im not sure how those youngsters born after 1990 will go (yes, there really are'people born after 1990, and who have never heard of Superteda frightful thought, I know), but thats what Wikipedia and Youtube are for.

I loved the relationship between Amy and her mum, and thought that this was by far the strongest of the book. It teeters between that horrible awkwardness of a mother wanting to be her daughters friend and wanting to protect her, and Marr does an excellent job of pinpointing those key moments that demonstrate this tentative balance so well. The other characters arent quite so well rendered, but I think thats partly the idea: the book is a comic romp that gets its momentum from its silliness and slapstick brilliance rather than from deeply involved relationships. In fact, the only character that didnt quite work for me was Logan: perhaps its because I have a deep-seated loathing of mullets or an irrational fear of anyone who says fair dinkum in actual conversation, but I just didnt quite grok the connection between Amy and Logan, nor quite believe Amys promptly developed crush on him.

But regardless, Preloved'is a witty, likeable ride through a good thirty years worth of pop culture and karmic retribution, and beneath its glittery, hairsprayed veneer is a thoughtful discussion of the ways in which were connected to others in our lives, and how widely our actions extendboth in our present context and across time.

And yes, my husband does believe that we met in a past life.

(For educational purposes: the Mr Matey ad from the 80s)

Rating: star Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marrstar Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marrstar Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marrstar Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marrblankstar Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr (excellent)

With thanks to Walker Books Australia for the review copy

Support Read in a Single Sitting by purchasing Preloved'from

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See our other Shirley Marr reviews

Other books by Shirley Marr:

fury shirley marr Book Review: Preloved by Shirley Marr


  1. Yay Im vintage, I shall now start dressing and acting like Don Draper

  2. Stephanie /

    Go on, the girls will love it!

  3. Aw! I enjoyed Shirley Marrs other book so I really want to read this too. I think I could seriously relate to Amys relationship with her mother, its a strong selling point of the book for me. Also all those 80s references! It seems like such a fun read, I know I can depend on Shirley to be witty at least. :D

  4. Stephanie /

    Thanks for visiting, Elena. :) Preloved is *very* different from Fury, but I think its a much stronger book in many ways. I hope you manage to get your hands on a copy, because it really is good fun.

  5. This is sooo on my TBR!

    Loved your new look! Very NICE :D

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks so much, Tien :) Glad you like it. And I think youll really enjoy this book, tooits hilarious!

  6. This books sounds like a lot of fun. But it is giving me a complex. Im turning thirty this year, and considering myself vintage is making my head hurt. LOL

  7. Stephanie /

    Haha, you know, if we all came back as zombies, we could be a vintage revival :)

  8. I cant wait to read this one. I was going to start this morning but unfortunately discovered Iev left my copy at my parents place! Will have to get it asap.

    • Stephanie /

      Looking forward to seeing what you think, Belleits a glorious read!

  9. Does this revival include dancing and singing hymns? Because I think as zombies wed be flying apart at the seams.

  10. Stephanie /

    Hmm, Jami, I hear that your sewing skills are a lot better than mine, so Im sure your seams would be fine. ;)

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