Guest Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle

Sophie Green

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733641169

 

Description:

It’s the summer of 1982. The Man from Snowy River is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV.

In a seaside suburb of NSW, housewife Theresa Howard takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.

From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.

After finding herself in a desperate situation, 26-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.

Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.

In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive shark sightings, bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship in their friendship circle, and learn that love takes many forms.

 

Brenda’s Review:

By the ocean in the suburb of Shelly Bay in NSW, four women lived their lives. They didn’t know one another, but soon they would. Theresa, mother of two young children, a husband who never helped around the house and her Nonna all lived in one house; Elaine, originally from England where her two adult sons still resided moved to Shelly Bay with her Australian surgeon husband, James. Marie, widowed for the past five years had a quiet, lonely existence while Leanne kept her past locked away, working as a nurse in the local hospital.

Marie swam every day, whatever the season and when Theresa started her early morning swimming – to have some time for herself – she and Marie soon swam together. Elaine was the third to venture to the ocean and when Leanne, having recently learned to swim in the local pool, braved the water the group became four. Gradually the four different women became friends, shared secrets and heartache, were there for one another. Their friendship was the one constant in their lives; the ocean their solace.

After loving Aussie author Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, I was really looking forward to The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle and it didn’t disappoint. A wonderful, heartfelt, feel-good, wrap-you-in-a-hug story, there is sadness, loss, happiness, love – but most of all friendship. Set in Australia, it begins in the summer of 1982, giving us the insights into four people’s lives over a period of two years. An absolute delight, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is one I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms Green comes up with next. 5 stars.

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

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens

Hachette Australia

Little Brown Books

ISBN: 9781472154651

 

Description:

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

 

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

 

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

 

 

My View:

This narrative is gently, softly spoken, yet powerful, immersive and surprising. Themes of Domestic Violence, resilience, prejudice, love and murder float softly across the page bumping chaotically against one another, leaving no marks.

 

This is the debut fictional novel for Delia Owens who has previously co-authored three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as wildlife scientist in Africa. I bet she can draw too – she writes like an artist – I imagine her work in watercolours and pastels – gentle, floaty, soft and vibrant.

 

Despite the violence that punctures this novel I am overwhelmed by the protagonist’s sense of curiosity and resilience. Her studies of nature are sublime…I can imagine the books she wrote. I can picture the illustrations. I feel her loneliness, I applaud her ingenuity and strong survival instincts.

 

This book is so many things – it is a haunting portrayal of domestic violence, guilt, prejudice and entitlement yet is equally a study in resilience, of nature, of environment and enduring love. And it has a wonderfully surprising ending – what a fantastic twist! For reasons I cannot identify it left me feeling light, weightless… happy…and surprised. I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

Review: The Gift of Life – Josephine Moon

The Gift of Life

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143791997

 

Description:

You’ve been given the gift of life, now go live it.

 

Gabby McPhee is the owner of The Tin Man, a chic new cafe and coffee roasting house in Melbourne. The struggles of her recent heart transplant are behind her and life is looking up – until a mysterious customer appears in the cafe, convinced that Gabby has her deceased husband’s heart beating inside her chest.

 

Krystal Arthur is a bereaved widow, struggling to hold herself and her two young boys together since Evan’s death, and plagued by unanswered questions. Why was her husband in another city the night he died? And why won’t his spirit rest?

 

Krystal is convinced that Gabby holds the clues she needs to move towards a brighter future. Gabby needs Krystal to help her let go of her troubled past. The two women must come together to try to unlock the secrets in Evan’s heart in order to set free their own.

 

By the internationally bestselling author of The Chocolate Promise, this is a profound and moving novel about the deeper mysteries of love and loss – and the priceless gift of life.

 

My View:

A fabulous read – engaging, informative, and poignant.

 

This is a very moving narrative; organ donation is subject that has recently received deserved attention in the media and despite that increased attention there seems to be so much more that is needed to be done.  https://donatelife.gov.au/about-donation/get-facts/facts-and-statistics   What I really enjoyed about this story was hearing the unique voice of the character who is a recipient – each day a gift but with that gift are so many caveats.

 

Then there is the mystery.

 

This is a very engaging read; life is exposed in all its fragile beauty – difficult, tiring, exasperating, frustrating, challenging, worthwhile, exhilarating, loving and precious.  Themes of family, friendship, love, loss, grief and second chances dominate this read. Josephine Moon has written characters that you will genuinely care about wrapped in a narrative that is complex and discusses many contemporary issues.

 

 

 

 

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: Love Song – Sasha Wasley

Love Song

Daughters of the Outback #3

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784562

 

Description:

There was something about Charlie. Something about the way he questioned and teased her, brought her outside of herself … the way he’d made her crash headlong into love just by singing to her.

 

At age seventeen, Beth Paterson was determined to study medicine at university, despite the heartache of losing her mother. Tutoring Charlie Campbell worked well with her plan – but falling in love with him sure didn’t, and neither did getting her heart broken when he abruptly left town.

 

Now Charlie is a big star on the alternative rock scene, while Beth is a respected doctor in her hometown. When Charlie comes back to fight for the tiny community where he was raised, neither one of them can ignore the resurgence of wild attraction they once shared.

 

Beth swore no man would ever hurt her again – least of all this man. But some love songs can never be forgotten, especially when they were written for you …

 

From the author of Dear Banjo comes a book to make your heart sing and your spirits soar.

 

 

My View:

A poignant work of rural fiction, I can feel the author’s passion for her craft, her characters and this series on the pages as I read.

 

This is a fast paced read with complex social issues, engaging characters, passion, romance and optimism.

 

It was fitting that I read this on the remote, dusty land of Hutt River Province, Western Australia, (we are on holidays).

 

A great read that nicely connects the other books and characters of the series and ends with an abundance of optimism and good will.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One – Raphaelle Giordano

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You only Have One

Raphaelle Giordano

Penguin Random House Australia

Bantam

ISBN: 9780143788997

 

Description:

At thirty-eight and a quarter years old, Camille has everything she needs to be happy, or so it seems. Why then does she feel as if happiness has slipped through her fingers? All she wants is to find the path to joy and fulfilment.

 

When Claude, a routinologist, offers his unique advice to help get her there, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. Camille’s journey is full of surprising, creative and richly meaningful lessons, as she sets out to transform her life and realize her dreams one step at a time . . .

 

A charming, feel-good and universal story of one woman’s journey from boredom and dissatisfaction to happiness and fulfilment – if you liked The Happiness Project, The Alchemist or Eat, Pray, Love, you’ll love this.

 

 

My View:

Clever, life affirming, at times humorous, thought provoking.

 

This is a charming, entertaining read that has many lessons to share. I enjoyed the journey that Camille embarks on and the clever twist at the conclusion.