Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia’s most beloved performers, tells her story.
In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father’s espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.
Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.
John Purcell's review
Pretend you have never heard the name Magda Szubanski. I know it's difficult. You're probably already picturing her as Sharon Strzelecki in Kath and Kim, or as Esme Hoggett in Babe, or as Pixie-Anne Wheatley or Chenille from Fast Forward.
But do try. Reckoning isn't a celebrity memoir. Magda's story is rich, beautifully told and moving. The daughter of Polish and Scottish migrants, it's a thoroughly Australian story. Like Raimond Gaita's Romulus, My Father, Madga's memoir centres on her relationship with her father. The thing is, the man who was Magda's father, the man who mowed the lawn, joined the local tennis club, wore shorts and long socks, wasn't your regular suburbanite.
He was an assassin.
You know, the usual story.
A migrant's daughter's memoir, Reckoning is at once light and dark, the way we ourselves are light and dark. It is the work of a writer whose own family's story led her further and further into a past that was complex and strange, dangerous and surprising, and of her own story which led her out into the spotlight.
Caroline Baum's review
This is the perfect companion to Richard Glover's Flesh Wounds in that both books present you with a totally different understanding of someone that you may have come to know through their public life, both using humour to heal the scars of family trauma.
In Richard's case, his mother is the problem while in Magda's, it is her father's terrible past during WW2. Both reveal themselves to be fine writers capable of great honesty, sensitivity and insight but free of self-pity. That requires courage, which Szubanksi has proved in her acting career over and over and in the way she handled her coming out. I hope a festival puts these two in conversation together. How delicious would that be?
About the Author
Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers. She began her career in university revues, then appeared in a number of sketch comedy shows before creating the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV’s Kath and Kim. She has also acted in films (Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, The Golden Compass) and stage shows. Reckoning is her first book.
`A brave and tender book about everything that matters most in life.' * Cate Blanchett *
`This is a remarkable memoir, that weaves the tragedy of twentieth century history into a personal narrative of coming to terms with family and self, and manages to honour both stories. The writing is assured and controlled, the storytelling expert and thoughtful, the language eloquent and moving. The writing, the story, the voice-all of it is beautiful.' * Christos Tsiolkas *
'Reckoning is a riveting, overwhelmingly poignant autobiography by a woman of genius...It is an extraordinary hymn to the tragic heroism at the heart of ordinary life and the soaring moral scrutiny of womankind. Every library should have it, every school should teach it.' * Weekend Australian *
`Unlike most autobiographies by famous people, Reckoning has substance beyond the writer's fame...Szubanski's fine memoir, written with great style, adds another layer to our history - another startling migrant story.' * Crikey *
`Reckoning is a powerful, exquisitely written account of Szubanski's loves and "lives" thus far.' * West Australian *
`With its hints of nostalgia, raw honesty, compassion, and a good amount of bravery, Szubanski's Reckoning reflects on the truths we hide and the realities we cannot ignore as we develop into and through our adult lives.' * Conversation *
`Sensitive and searching, colourful and vividly composed...stylish and accomplished.' * Sydney Morning Herald *
`Nearly every memoir is described as "brave" these days but Szubanski has earned the word...The result of her efforts is an affecting story of family intimacy - soulfully and sensitively told.' * Saturday Paper *
`[Reckoning] reveals [Magda] to be an extraordinarily rare talent - somebody with first-rate emotional and comedic instincts as well as a fierce intellect which would allow her to succeed in any academic task she'd set herself...This is a book which will be good for the soul of anybody who reads it.' * Daily Review *
`[Reckoning is] a page-turner...The quality of a memoir depends on how interesting a life the person writing it has had and Szubanski doesn't appear to do dull. She is articulate and likeable as she tries to reconcile herself with the many difficult aspects of her past.' * New Zealand Herald *
[Reckoning] untangles intergenerational trauma with intelligence and insight...[Szubanski] declares herself as a sensitive intellectual who is cursed, or blessed, depending on your point of view, with the fervent desire to understand.' * Newtown Review of Books *
`Reckoning isn't simply a collection of anecdotes, though - it is so much more. Sharp, beautiful, a must-read.' * Canberra Weekly *
`Magda's memoir is a moving exploration of her relationship with her Polish Resistance hero father...Reckoning is a quest and, in a sad but satisfying way, Magda does find what she's seeking.' * Australian Women's Weekly *
`Far more than a run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir, this is a beautifully written, heartfelt and illuminating family saga.' * New Daily *
`Compelling author, compelling premise, compelling writing.' * Graeme Simsion, Age/Sydney Morning Herald, Best Books of 2015 *
`I also adored Magda Szubanski's memoir, Reckoning. She has great stories to draw on but it is her very fine writing that makes it such a joy to read.' * Christos Tsiolkas, Age Sydney Morning Herald, Best Books of 2015 *
`We all knew she was funny, but who knew she could write like this?' * Benjamin Law, Age/Sydney Morning Herald *
`Do not, repeat, do not underestimate comedian Magda Szubanski's Reckoning...A powerful piece of writing.' * Courier Mail *
'Reckoning is a beautiful and moving story of a serious, thoughtful and complex person.' * Paul Barclay, Radio National Books and Arts, Best Books of 2015 *
`A fascinating memoir from the much-loved comedian...One of our favourites.' * InDaily *
`Magda Szubanski's brave, compassionate - and hilarious - Reckoning may be some sort of masterpiece of the form.' * Australian, Best Books of 2015 *
`Magda Szubanski blew us away with her writing chops in this remarkable, fearless and deeply personal memoir.' * Booktopia, Books of the Year 2015 *
`A moving and grave account of how a great comedian plumbed the enigma of her father's activities as a Polish wartime resistance hero.' * Peter Craven, Australian, Best Books of 2015 *
`[Szubanski] captures wonderfully well the strange dissonance of history.' * Sophie Cunningham, Australian, Best Books of 2015 *
`It is so refreshing to read an autobiography by a skilful character actor who is also in her own, non-stereotypical way, a role model for your average Aussie...The book will endure, just as Szubanski herself has.' * Same Same *
`It is impossible not to be moved...Let's hope Szubanski writes more. She shines just as brightly as a serious writer as she does as a comedian.' * Guardian, Best Australian Books of 2015 *
`Documentary writing of the highest order...Anyone who doesn't adore Magda Szubanski the clown will be awed by Szubanski the A-grade non-fiction writer.' * Age/Sydney Morning Herald *
`Packed full of humour, drama and insights from a warm and hugely intelligent woman' * Book Bag *
`Utterly superb, an eye-opening book...profound and delicately entertaining' * G Scene *
`A deeply personal read-sometimes uncomfortably so-but Magda is an honest, forthright guide, and her love for her parents (and her siblings, especially older sister Barbara) shine through. This is not a sentimental read, nor is it a self-pitying one, but it's a warm, intelligent, brave and occasionally eye-opening one. I found it utterly captivating and came away from it feeling as if Magda had somehow exonerated the ghosts of her family's past-or at least come to terms with them.' * Reading Matters *