"Holier Than Thou" by Laura Buzo


There were two reasons why I picked up this novel.

Reason #1: I’d read Laura Buzo’s debut novel “Good Oil” and loved the fresh, crisp writing style, as well as her construction of the characters.

Reason #2: This novel centered on a protagonist who is at that point in life where school and university life are over, and ‘real life’ is on the brink of beginning. As someone who is currently at university, and who reads countless YA and Adult novels I’d been hoping a long time to find something that would bridge that gap. And this novel does that.

Holly ‘Hollier-than-thou’ Yarkov has a steady, fulfilling job, a boyfriend whom she adores, a new flat to call all her own, and a group of great friends who, like her,  are all beginning the next stage of their lives. This novel intertwines three timelines:

1) there’s the secondary school-aged Holly, who is struggling with having a father who is fighting a losing battle with cancer.

2) there’s the university Holly, who is struggling with her growing feelings for her close friend Liam, and also struggling with the fact that they may be largely unrequited.

3) and finally, present day Holly, who has graduated, and experiencing for the first time the rewards and drawbacks of a full-time job, and the increasing demands that ‘adult life’ has on the close friendships forged in school.

Buzo’s crisp writing style is still evident in this novel. It effectively sets the atmosphere, paints a character’s emotion, without over-complicating things, and I kinda love it. The whole situation with Holly’s Dad is constructed with a deft hand. Buzo never overdoes the emotion, and yet there wasn’t a single moment where I thought Holly was too unfeeling. There’s a certain poignancy to her stalwart exterior, something which she prides herself in for much of the story, but comes to find that it is not the protection she thought it to be.

At first, the switching timelines were slightly confusing, but once I was acquainted with all the ‘Hollys’ I was able to sit back and take in the story. It’s a perfect novel for anyone who’s either graduated from highschool or university – it deals with both the disorientation of finding yourself in a  new situation and our knee-jerk reaction of trying to keep those old bonds from breaking.

The only downside about this novel is that it just seemed to finish too quickly. I just wanted more of Holly’s story. And maybe, it was the crisp writing – maybe Buzo was a little too crisp at times, and there were a certain things (such as Holly’s friends, and her relationship with her younger brother) that could have been fleshed out a little more.

However, it’s a great(if not fully satisfying read) with an interesting cast and writing that you’ll have no choice but to gobble up.

” ‘I really resent the way that kind of news makes me feel. And the randomness of it. It’s as if nothing good exists in the world. But it does exist. It just doesn’t get reported in the news.’ 


   ‘A Dulwich Hill woman, aged 24, sat on her balcony tonight contemplating a large eucalypt and for a moment thought that she comprehended the nature of the universe and her place within it.’

   ‘A Marrickville man, aged 26, lifted himself up to the roof of a community hall with his own muscles and two cuts of silk, and felt like he had conquered all.’

  ‘Last night, unbeknownst to anyone but their voyeuristic neighbour, two platonic flatmates realised that they loved each other and left a half-cooked stew on the stove while they consummated their love. 

   ‘A nurse and social worker took fifteen minutes out of their shitty thankless job in the roughest corner of town, sat on a couple of milk crates drinking coffee, flopped their real selves out on the cement and both liked what they saw.’ ” 

3/5 stars

  Lady Disdain  


2 thoughts on “"Holier Than Thou" by Laura Buzo

  1. Aaah thanks for this! As I inch ever closer to the limbo that is post-graduate/pre-working life, it's always nice to have a book (or a song or a movie) to help ease the transition, even if it's just as simple as knowing that other people have been/are/will be where you are now.

    And I LOVE that excerpt you've included there. It made me feel warm and sad and happy all at once.


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