After the Blues: What Debbie Did Next…
Now an adult, Debbie from Puberty Blues and her girlfriends reveal what women really say when men aren’t around. Oh dear . . .!
We are some years on now from Puberty Blues. Debbie and friends know for sure that girlfriends are the only people you can rely on to be supportive and uplifting when you make the right decisions, and the wrong ones, over and over again. And even though they know that there are only two things wrong with men – everything they say and everything they do – why oh why do they keep falling for the wrong guys, and saying yes when they mean no?
Hooray for the regular girls’ night out, the one evening you can’t stand your girlfriends up if a better offer comes along.
Kathy Lette has returned to her second novel Girls’ Night Out, written when she was 20, and given it a complete rewrite.
I remember reading Puberty Blues in the late 80s and loving it, then reading it again a couple of years ago and feeling that its punch was rather dated and that I was rather too old to appreciate it anymore. I did, however, really enjoy the TV series that ran for two seasons, and it was that, more than the original book, that steered me towards giving After the Blues a whirl. Unfortunately, it was a bit hit and miss for me.
While there were some definite laugh out loud bits, much of the book just tried too hard. It was also very disjointed, which is why I’m referring to it as a book, rather than a novel. In her introduction to After the Blues, Kathy mentions revisiting her second novel, Girls’ Night Out, as a means of continuing Debbie’s story. I took that to mean that there were parts of that novel inspired by Puberty Blues, but I see after the fact that she seems to have just worked Girls’ Night Out into a new book with a couple of extra additions either side and repackaged it as After the Blues. I find this quite disappointing and somewhat misleading, but I haven’t ever read Girls’ Night Out so I can’t be sure to the extent of its replication within this book. Needless to say, I’ve never been a fan of rewrites, but this wasn’t indicated in the blurb on the book itself, which differs significantly from the Goodreads description included above.
All this aside, in terms of content/story, I wasn’t keen on what Debbie did next. Quite honestly, she seemed to deliberately choose to be a waste of space, and I found myself in a state of incredulity rather than being able to just settle back and laugh at her ‘antics’. I was also slightly confused as to her best friend’s identity, no longer Sue, but a girl called Sarah who really was Sue but with a new name. Sarah/Sue didn’t have a huge part to play in this book, but even so, each time she was mentioned, I had to do a quick think about who Debbie was referring to. Those kind of inconsistencies are a bit distracting and make me wonder, why not just leave Sarah as Sue? Sarah/Sue also didn’t behave in a way that was consistent with the original Sue, so overall, this character was a botch job.
After the Blues has a very outdated feel to it, far more than what I felt when re-reading Puberty Blues. There was just too much drug taking, stealing, and dole bludging to be truly authentic and I find it utterly unbelievable that every man in Australia during the early 80s was a chauvinistic Neanderthal. Some stories are better left where they originally end, and for me, After the Blues hasn’t done Debbie any favours. Read this if you’re a dead set Puberty Blues fan, but don’t be disappointed if you’re disappointed.
After the Blues is book 75 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.