I must be one of the few people (or women?) in Australia who didn’t see the Mary Coustas interview last year on 60 Minutes…. or was it that other program? I’m just not into shows like that in general and although I have vague memories of seeing the ads for it and I was certainly an Effie fan I didn’t feel the need to tune in. The ratings were spectacular apparently so I was possibly in the minority on this one. What I did read about however was that bright, funny Mary Coustas had a baby at the end of last year…. at 49! I was stunned and curious enough to seek out her memoir at the local library. It’s not my usual type of read, but I was intrigued. I couldn’t imagine having a child at that age, and tend to hold certain, somewhat unpopular, views about IVF at that point in life. Although having had children in my late twenties instead of late forties, it’s easy for me to say such things not having had to go through such dilemmas myself.
Anyway, to the book. Most of it is dedicated to Coustas’ long and painful struggle to conceive a child and carry it successfully to term, but it also deals with the death of her much loved and admired father and her life in inner city and then suburban Melbourne as a child. The whole family lived in the shadow of death for many years as her father suffered one heart attack after another, finally succumbing to his condition when Coustas was in her early twenties and before her career really took off. She also details her first and subsequent trips to Greece, a place she was reluctant to visit but then found a real sense of belonging in, to meet her maternal grandmother and other relatives. There’s a beautiful and very funny scene with her grandmother when, mostly through sign language, they discuss the family’s trait of having a well endowed bust.
While there is a sort of enlightenment in Cousta’s journey and some very humourous anecdotes All I Know is essentially a sad story detailing the arduous journey to motherhood – one that is not fulfilled by the end of this memoir. I was in tears at times and weeping by the end. I feel for women in Mary Coustas’ position, forced to use IVF not because she left it too late (she was in her mid thirties when she started) but because her body had let her down. By her mid and then late forties she was still on this dreadful path, having had countless failed attempts, making decisions no woman should have to face and losing one daughter to stillbirth. I understand the desire to continue, to keep trying and trying. How do you turn that feeling off, but I’m not sure that’s enough to change my mind.
Mary Coustas is a talented comedy writer and you can see that skill in her memoir. It is well written, but as with many screenwriters that turn to writing books it reads a bit more like a script than the depth and descriptive text (though not too descriptive, it’s a fine line), I look for in a really good novel. This is probably a book for someone with a particular interest in either Mary Coustas or infertility/IVF or just curious like me, but was still an interesting read.