Poly (Paul Dalgarno, Ventura)
Spouses Chris and Sarah are trying something new—after years without sex, but still in love and keen to remain a family unit, they’ve agreed to see other people. The confident, sensual Sarah welcomes the opportunity to explore her sexuality, enjoying flings with multiple new partners, while Chris falls for Biddy, a musician with an extra finger and a loving soul. Housework and childcare duties are juggled between them with the help of Zac, a 22-year-old man adopted by the couple’s kids. But as Chris and Sarah explore the highs and lows of their new situation, it becomes clear that Zac may not be what he seems. Poly itself has highs and lows. It’s direct, sometimes funny, and perhaps realistic: the complex and anxious Chris enjoys his new relationship but is jealous of his wife’s, obsessing over them to the point of unaware slut-shaming. It would have been exciting to see a novel about non-traditional, non-linear relationships explored through an appropriately non-traditional, non-linear narrative structure, but unfortunately Poly remains steadfastly conventional. Paul Dalgarno lays bare the complexities of modern adult relationships, neatly balancing a discussion of freedom and self-expression with an examination of the adult responsibilities of careers and children. While it is a frank and sometimes engaging look at the fluid dynamics of polyamory, Poly ends without a satisfying conclusion, abruptly shifting its focus from Chris’ fraying mental health and relationships to a weaker subplot.
Georgia Brough is a writer based in Melbourne.
Editor’s note: This review was amended on 29 July to correct a factual error.