Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove – Sandie Docker

The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Sandie Docker

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143789215

 

Description:

Why had the house stayed empty so long? Why had it never been sold?

 

LOST

Nicole has left her city life for the sleepy town of Rosella Cove, renting the old cottage by the water. She plans to keep to herself – but when she uncovers a hidden box of wartime love letters, she realises she’s not the

first person living in this cottage to hide secrets and pain.

 

FOUND

Ivy’s quiet life in Rosella Cove is tainted by the events of World War II, with ramifications felt for many years to come. But one night a drifter appears and changes everything. Perhaps his is the soul she’s meant to save.

 

FORGOTTEN

Charlie is too afraid of his past to form any lasting ties in the cove. He knows he must make amends for his tragic deeds long ago, but he can’t do it alone. Maybe the new tenant in the cottage will help him fulfil a promise and find the redemption he isn’t sure he deserves.

 

Welcome to the cottage at Rosella Cove, where three damaged souls meet and have the chance to rewrite their futures.

 

 

My View:

Isn’t it great when you discover a new author to add to your “authors you must read” list?

 

Sandie Docker writes with a subtleness that is poignant and encompasses many contemporary social issues without shouting her message loudly in your face.  There are many threads to this narrative – domestic violence – DV does not always include physical violence; it can be a deliberate isolation from friends and family, a slow erosion of self and self-confidence, financial dependence/control…the psychological assault is oh so manipulative and dire…Docker weaves this thread into the narrative with a deceptive charm – blink and you will miss the signs – just as the victim does. But this is more than a narrative of DV, it is a charming story of friendships, new and old, about redemption, rebuilding  –  I liked the analogy for rebuilding life/rebuilding cottage – by allowing friendship in and opening  up your heart to possibilities and hope.

 

I loved the device – the reading of old letters – to fill in gaps, to tell a personal history and a world history, to add depth to characters, and to provide optimism and resolution.

 

This is a deceptively simple narrative that encompasses so much life. A great read.

 

 

 

Review: Allegra in Three Parts – Suzanne Daniel

Allegra in Three Parts

Suzanne Daniel

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760781712

RRP$29.99

 

Description:

From Suzanne Daniel comes an outstanding debut novel, capturing 1970s Australia with warmth, humour and a distinctive voice. I can split myself in two . . . something I have to do because of Joy and Matilde. They are my grandmothers and I love them both and they totally love me but they can’t stand each other. Eleven-year-old Allegra shuttles between her grandmothers who live next door to one another but couldn’t be more different. Matilde works all hours and instils discipline, duty and restraint. She insists that Allegra focus on her studies to become a doctor. Meanwhile free-spirited Joy is full of colour, possibility and emotion, storing all her tears in little glass bottles. She is riding the second wave of the women’s movement in the company of her penny tortoise, Simone de Beauvoir, encouraging Ally to explore broad horizons and live her ‘true essence’.

And then there’s Rick who lives in a flat out the back and finds distraction in gambling and solace in surfing. He’s trying to be a good father to Al Pal, while grieving the woman who links them all but whose absence tears them apart. Allegra is left to orbit these three worlds wishing they loved her a little less and liked each other a lot more. Until one day the unspoken tragedy that’s created this division explodes within the person they all cherish most. Suzanne Daniel is a journalist and communications consultant who has also worked for ABC TV, the Sydney Morning Herald, the United Nations, BBC (London) and in crisis management and social services. For the past twenty years she has served on community, philanthropic and public company boards. Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and family. Allegra in Three Parts is her first novel.

 

My View:

I am sitting here in my flares, a recent “op shop” purchase, I love flares, I am searching for the musical references mentioned in this novel; I love the music of the seventies.

At the time (the 70’s) I was too young to appreciate that I was growing up female in the middle of the Women’s movement, the liberation. The movement was happening around me and I largely benefited from the struggles of my peers. Helen Reddy’s powerhouse song “I am Woman” was the anthem we all sang. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rptW7zOPX2E

But I digress. I am meant to be reviewing Allegra in Three Parts – and in a     roundabout way I am.

Allegra in Three Parts has many story arcs – the Women’s Liberation movement being one of them; the setting up of women’s safe houses/refuges from family violence, the challenge of attaining equal pay and conditions, education for women, the harnessing of trade unions to improve work conditions…so much more is introduced to us by the characters of grandmothers Joy and Mathilde. Joy is at the forefront of the movement, with her Liberty Club. Mathilde clearly feels that education and a good job are the key to a woman’s success and independence and she is determined that Allegra will have those opportunities. They both want the best life possible for Allegra.

 

Suzanne Daniel also creates a space here to discuss the role of fathers in family and in particular as role models for their daughters when we are introduced to Rick – Allegra’s father. As the narrative progresses his influence on the family and Allegra increases – in a positive way.

 

The characters of Rick and the grandmothers are great devices to open up discussion surrounding grief, loss and resilience.

 

There are so many more social issues subtly probed in this novel – so gently are they introduced that you hardly are aware of the lessons being shared; on racism, multiculturalism, on being different, of bullying, of class and privilege…

 

More than issues this is a book about growth and healing, forgiveness, families and love and the importance of being loved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omrGB4HgjEg

 

“There’s no formula for happiness that’s guaranteed to work

It all depends on how you treat your friends and how much you’ve been hurt

But it’s a start, when you open up your heart

And try not to hide, what you’re feeling inside

Just open up your heart.”  (p249, ‘Open Up Your Heart’ G W Thomas)

 

I loved this book!

 

 

 

Review: When it all Went to Custard – Danielle Hawkins

When it All Went to Custard

Danielle Hawkins

HarperCollins

ISBN: 9781775541417

 

Description:

Odds of saving marriage – slim. Farming expertise – patchy. Chances that it’ll all be okay in the end – actually pretty good …

 

 

I wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of 23 February even before I learnt that my husband was having an affair …

 

The news of her husband’s infidelity comes as a nasty shock to Jenny Reynolds, part-time building control officer and full-time mother – even though, to her surprise and embarrassment, her first reaction is relief, not anguish. What really hurts is her children’s unhappiness at the break-up, and the growing realisation that, alone, she may lose the family farm.

 

This is the story of the year after Jenny’s old life falls apart; of family and farming, pet lambs and geriatric dogs, choko-bearing tenants and Springsteen-esque neighbours. And of just perhaps a second chance at happiness.

 

 

My View:

I cannot get enough of this authors writing! (I am still looking for a copy of Dinner at Rosie’s if anyone has a copy on their shelf somewhere).

 

Danielle Hawkins writes rural fiction with charm, wit, humour and engaging contemporary issues. Take a peek at the lives reflected here and you will see situations, landscapes (albeit New Zealand landscapes but they do translate well to Australian settings), and characters that remind you of places and people you know.

 

Danielle’s books always light up my day. More please.

 

 

Guest Review: A Single Woman – Maggie Christensen

A Single Woman

Maggie Christensen

Cala Publishing

ASIN: B07PMV51JF

Description:

Isla Cameron. headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship,

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

Readers of Christensen’s earlier books, The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, will love reconnecting with Bel and Matt while enjoying Isla Cameron’s unique story.

Brenda’s Review:

Alasdair MacLeod’s grief over the death of his wife two years earlier felt all encompassing. His two teenage children, Fiona and Robbie coped with the loss of their mother in their own way, while Alasdair’s father-in-law Matt and his wife Bel helped the best they could. Fi belonged to an all girl’s school in Glasgow and idolized the headmistress, Isla Cameron who’d been in that position for the past ten years. Isla was happily single, living in a small flat with her cat Sooty, catching up with her best friend Shona now and then.

With a school trip to France on the agenda for a select few pupils, Fi was desperate to go along. Alasdair met with Isla to discuss the logistics – Fi was wheelchair bound, but if the French au pair accompanied them, Fi could join the trip. As Isla and Alasdair got to know one another, they both realized they had much in common. They both wanted companionship and friendship – but was Alasdair ready for a relationship? And did Isla want to give up her hard-won independence?

A Single Woman by Aussie author Maggie Christensen is loosely linked to The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, and it was wonderful to catch up with Bel and Matt, Alasdair’s children’s grandparents, again. This author’s characters are always so real; people who live next door; people we know and love. I thoroughly enjoyed A Single Woman and love the way Maggie writes about the older generation, with ease and aplomb. I’m already looking forward to this author’s next. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Book Bingo- Themes of Justice- The Rip – Mark Brandi

The Rip

The Rip

Mark Brandi

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733641121

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

‘It’s funny how quick it happens and without you really noticing. Anton said once that it’s like walking out into the sea, and you think everything’s fine and the water’s warm, but when you turn back you’re suddenly miles from shore. I’ve never been much of a swimmer, but I get what he means. Like, being caught in a current or something. A rip.’

 

A young woman, living on the street has to keep her wits about her. Or her friends. But when the drugs kick in that can be hard.

 

Anton has been looking out for her. She was safe with him. But then Steve came along.

 

He had something over Anton. Must have. But he had a flat they could crash in. And gear in his pocket. And she can’t stop thinking about it. A good hit makes everything all right.

 

But the flat smells weird.

There’s a lock on Steve’s bedroom door.

And the guy is intense.

 

The problem is, sometimes you just don’t know you are in too deep, until you are drowning.

 

 

My View:

Mark Brandi has a special talent, a super power, he is able to insert poignant, authentic characters into his narratives that tell urban, contemporary stories that have great social impact.  Subtle yet powerful, what an amazing voice he and his characters have.

 

Bravo! Encore!

 

What’s next Mark? I can’t wait to find out.

 

Guest Review: The House of Second Chances – Esther Campion

The House of Second Chances

Esther Campion

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636172

 

Description:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Even though Ellen O’Shea had returned to South Australia after her visit to her home in Ireland, she knew her brother Aidan who was a builder, would continue the renovation of their grandmother’s stone cottage in West Cork. Ellen had taken her good friend, interior designer Colette Barry on board, and knew she would do an excellent job with the cottage. But Aidan didn’t want the added cost that came with Colette’s grandiose ideas.

While good friend Gerry Clancy was trying to obtain the visa he needed to join Ellen in Australia, Colette was busy at her interior designer company, Fabulous Four Walls, along with good friend and partner John. When Colette and Gerry joined Aidan at the West Cork cottage, she could see the potential and knew the house would have a second chance with all they could do. But she also wondered how she could work with the perpetually grumpy owner of the cottage. How could he be the brother of her best friend?

With troubled pasts and dark secrets, plus events with family and friends of an upsetting nature, was there a possibility of second chances and starting over? Would Aidan find happiness? Would Colette?

The House of Second Chances by Aussie author Esther Campion is the sequel to Leaving Ocean Road, and it was wonderful to catch up with Ellen, Aidan and Gerry once again. The story continues on from the ending of Leaving Ocean Road and was exceptionally well done, with the blending of known characters with new ones. The parts of Australia in the novel – Port Lincoln, Millicent, Mount Gambier, the Coorong – are places I know (I lived in Mount Gambier as a child); while Ireland is a place I haven’t been, but the descriptions of the countryside were delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and whipped through it in a matter of hours (who needs sleep?!) Highly recommended. 5 stars!

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

My Most Anticipated Release of 2019

I so loved Wimmera by Mark Brandi that I have been waiting, waiting for his next release. The Rip has already garnered some wonderful 5 star reviews and I cannot wait to read it. Brandi has a way of writing social driven issues in contemporary settings with more than a hint of mystery that is engaging and evocative.

 

Watch out for this one – released in March.