All characters have their own distinctive voices but the main voice is Cluadia Valentine and she makes all other characters involved in her search to find the real truth of the crime that has been committed to Mark Bannister. Claudia Valentine is drawn into Harry Lavenders web of corruption and the world of organised crime behind Sydney’s established image.
Marele Days choice to take the traditional ‘hardboiled’ private investigator approach and not only challenge the stereotyping of characters but also the common setting, from somewhere such as Los Angeles to Sydney.
She also brings about many new ideas in relation to characters and themes. The relationships between characters, themes and setting provide a strong message, which at first appearances are tricky and unusual. It is also apparent that the common issue of the good versus evil is explored through both the two sides of the city and the characters of Claudia Valentine and Harry Lavender. The characters may live and breath the city but the city too is living and breathing, every moment unfolding new beauty and new corruption.
Marele Day’s choice of Sydney as a plot setting is vital to the novel and provokes a reaction in the reader that is one of discovery, exploration and search for truth. In Harry Lavender text, lavender is a sweet smelling flower, which is unable to hide the stench of the criminal underworld in Sydney.
There are three references to ‘lavender’ in the novel which emphasise a recurring theme: when Claudia receives the flowers, the secret message that was left for Claudia, the scent of lavender in bloom in Sydney, the clues in the coroner report that lead her to suspect that Harry Lavender might be behind this crime committed over the reporter’s story.
Claudia’s distinctive voice gives the impression throughout “The life and Crimes of Harry Lavender” that she does not give up easily, which is ultimately her character. Claudia is very analytical in any situation when meeting characters or being exposed to different environments, “The city looks like a huge building site”. In the “Drifter” the entire family does not agree with the idea of leaving just for the sake of leaving. The mother, for example the “her” of the first line has hopes of establishing some permanence here.
She is willing to leave in order to be supportive of the father, which is an aspect of their relationship that is clear in the poem’s first line, when a major decision for the family is made by him alone, without discussion, and told to her. What makes this two text connected are the distinctive roles, that is the role of reversal – a female initiative and persistence in a traditional male dominated field; women can do everything men can do – challenges the stereotypes of traditional crime fiction and the story of “Drifters”. Claudia is a domineering character as a detective unlike traditionally male ones while the
mother in “Drifters” is an independent woman, who takes care of herself and her family. Just like Claudia the mother in a way tends to observe in order to understand people. This can be seen in the use of “Wildly excited for no reason” in reference to her kids. Marele Day uses a lot of the technique of modern day films – especially the “black and white” scenes on Harry Lavender.
He is very detached and aloof, (nobody knows where is and what he looks like). We as the audience get to see and hear what Claudia could not get her hands on to solve the problems, like where Mark Banister’s writings on Lavander are hidden. In contrast to the Harry Lavender text, the use of “One day soon he’ll tell her it’s time to start packing” shows us the obstacles of life experiences that are influenced by the great depression, families such as the one seen in “Drifter’s”.
Claudia’s life becomes depressed and troubled because she cannot solve problems of crimes as fast as she would like to. Claudia contacts the American publisher, Nancy Grosz, who had rejected Mark’s book and arranges for her to return the only remaining disc containing the manuscript. She also phones Steve and plans a holiday with him to Queensland where she hopes he will be able to meet her children.
Just as Claudia is hoping to get close to the victory in this case, Collier gives her message that Harry Lavender has lapsed into a coma and is expected to die overnight. For Claudia this may be the end of the road but her investigation in life will go on.
Similarly, hope and willingness to go on at all cost is seen in “Drifter’s” when mother’s hopes and wisdom of constant movement will give the opportunity to new chances, new ways of sustain the life of the whole family, we see at the end of the text, in the verse “Make a wish, Tom, make a wish”, which symbolises her will to cope and accept the problems that are part of everyday life which is very similar to Claudia’s mindset .
Although of different genres, “Harry Lavender” a crime story and “Drifters”, a poem, dearly portraying the struggles of the great depression in 1920s set in the American rural area, these two texts are connected by two women and their singularity in the struggle of not giving up. When compared, both texts are opening our minds to how singular and distinctive voices the main characters have, sending the message that life is very precious and is worth fighting for.