The 1980s were shaped by Reaganomics, Thatcherism and a‘‘greed is good’’ excuse to be selfish, but this quietly impressive first novel stays inside a marginalised culture of the time: caravan park long-stay residents,with their self-conscious pride and brooding resentments.

Elsie and Sterling are set in their ways, and sure of their love for each other. Sterling is handsome, enjoying the approval and company of other women, but remains touchingly loyal to Elsie, who works as a barmaid, grieving a brief memory of the baby she was forced to give up by attitudes steeped in 1950s morality. (The chapter epigraphs quoting women’s magazines of the time are cringingly hilarious.)

When a young woman turns up claiming to be her daughter, Elsie is forced to reconcile the past. Recommended.

Ian MacFarlane, Sunday Canberra Times 2 March 2008.

Vinyl Inside also enjoys the riddle of love. Like (Toni) Jordan Matthews manages to avoid the customary cynicism that tends these days to come standard with writing about matters of the heart. The book ventures into complex emotional territory but does so with a gentle belief that life’s burdens can shift into more comfortable positions … Matthews’ recreation of Elsie’s family is poignant and the portrait of her bewildered father is exquisite, especially at a time after the birth when Elsie joins him playing lawn bowls. Matthews uses details of consumer culture to draw the lines between different eras: Sterl wears Blue Stratos and her dad wears Old Spice.

Eventually, Elsie’s child, Dania, now an adult comes looking for her birth mother in Splashes. The sorest point of the story is that, in ten years of partnership, Elsie has not been bale to tell Sterl about her child. Sterl wanted kids of his own. But this earthy couple communicates brilliantly about anything that does not matter. They aren’t so good on the big stuff.

Toni Jordan and Rachel Matthews are writers of generous spirit. If sometimes their worlds are less clouded than the real one, the result is anything but disappointment.

Michael McGirr, The Age 23 February 2008.

An earthy first novel, Vinyl Inside follows Elsie and Sterling as they, well, go nowhere in particular. Touchingly in love, they’re living quietly in a caravan park when a blast from Elsie’s past — the daughter she gave up as a teenager — interrupts their rosy routine. Rachel Matthews has a nice ear for dialogue and creates a warm and witty little piece of Australiana here. Sterling and Elsie are the sort of characters other authors make fun of, but Matthews shows them the respect they deserve. In a word: affectionate.

Claire Sutherland, Herald Sun 5 January 2008.


Matthews delicately explores the idea of what a mother is and should be, and plays with themes of loss, regret and abandonment in an authentic and graceful way. The segments describing Elsie’s youth are particularly beautiful as they capture and convey the intensity and fragility of young womanhood.

Women readers and fans of unique Australian fiction, and of authors like Rebecca Sparrow, will enjoy this story. Vinyl Inside’s whimsical feel and the warm, likeable characters are what will keep readers interested until the surprising and cleverly gentle ending.

Lucy Meredith, Bookseller and Publisher October 2007.

In the 1980s Elsie and Sterling live at Splashes, a caravan park.Then, after 20 long years, Elsie’s daughter turns up, and there are a whole lot of adjustments to be made. The period, its culture and inocence is brought delightfully to life, and the characters are rich, real and (mostly) lovable. Long ago quotes from Aussie women’s mags at the start of each chapter are a reminder of a very different time in our history…

Julie Redlich,Woman’s Day 14 January 2008.

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