Review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone – Felicity McLean

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone

Felicity McLean

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Fourth Estate

ISBN: 9781460755068



We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’


So begins Tikka Molloy’s recounting of the summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – disappear.


Eleven and one-sixth years old, Tikka is the precocious narrator of this fabulously endearing coming-of-age story, set in an eerie Australian river valley suburb with an unexplained stench. The Van Apfel girls vanish from the valley during the school’s ‘Showstopper’ concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. While the search for the sisters unites the small community on Sydney’s urban fringe, the mystery of their disappearance remains unsolved forever.


Brilliantly observed, sharp, lively, funny and entirely endearing, this novel is part mystery, part coming-of-age story – and quintessentially Australian. Think The Virgin Suicides meets Jasper Jones meets Picnic at Hanging Rock.



My View:



If evocative, tension packed mysteries are your thing than don’t miss reading this book.


Felicity McLean captures the age of the characters, the idiom and the culture of the 90’s effortlessly – or makes it seem effortlessly.

I was glued to the pages, holding my breath, hoping for a positive outcome. There is so much tension packed into every observation, every comment, and every moment.


This is compelling, haunting and thought provoking. I loved every minute of this read.  Is this the best read of the year? I think so. It is a book that will stay with me for a long time.


Post Script: Alice and the Fly – James Rice

Honest, straightforward, heartbreaking and insightful.

Alice and the Fly

Alice and the Fly

James Rice

Hodder & Stoughton

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781444799514



A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.


This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.


Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.


My View:

What a fantastic debut novel – James Rice has captured the essence of youth, loneliness, love, secrets and mental illness and extracted a tale that is simply told yet powerful in its sparseness. Told mainly through the observations in The Fly’s (Greg’s) diary and the police transcripts of their interviews (no spoilers here) we learn about Greg’s spartan existence, his loneliness. Greg’s acute and brilliant observations of the world he lives in are revealing and confronting; told without melodrama, or malice, reported as is, matter of factually, which somehow makes these observations even more powerful. The missing elements in his life, love and kindness – are conspicuous by their absence.


The police interviews very quickly alert you/forecast a dire act has been committed and slowly the author teases out the circumstances of this, one diary entry at a time – you will be spellbound, you will be captivated by the unravelling of this story and will not want to put the book down – I couldn’t stop turning pages until I knew the entire history of Alice and the Fly. Then I felt saddened. What an unnecessary sadness; life could have been so much easier. Life could have been so much more for all those involved, Greg is not the only one isolated in this book.


Rice writes an exceptional debut; his narrative is calm and clear and bitter sweet and has an authenticity that is undeniable. Greg’s diary entries ring true and elements resonate within us – who has not been bullied – as an adult or a child? Who has not fit in – be it at school or place of work or even in the home? Who has not felt isolated at some point in their life? Who has not stored secrets in the vault of their own mind? There are elements here we can all relate to, there are opportunities here for change and awareness that should not be ignored. Beautifully written with a natural voice that is intelligent and respectful, a narrative that is distilled with an element of realistic optimism…

Post Script: What It Was Like – Peter Seth

Limmerence personified – so sad.

What It Was Like

Peter Seth

The Story Plant

Story Plant, The

ISBN: 9781611881905




“It’s really a very simple story. What happened was this: I met this girl and did a very stupid thing. I fell in love. Hard. I know that to some people that makes me an idiot and a loser. What can I say? They’re right. I did some extremely foolish things; I’m the first to say it. And they’ve left me in jail and alone.”


So begins one of the most compelling, emotionally charged, and affecting novels you are likely to read this year.


It is the summer of 1968 and a young man takes a job at a camp in upstate New York before starting his first semester at Columbia University. There, he meets Rachel Prince, a fellow counselor who is as beautiful as she is haunted. Their romance will burn with a passion neither of them has ever known before…a passion with the power to destroy.


In the tradition of Endless Love and Gone Girl, What it was Like is an intimate, raw, and revealing journey through the landscape of all-consuming love. It announces the debut of a remarkable storyteller.


My View:

Wikipedia ( states that limerence is “an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated…”and “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation..” The protagonist in the novel suffers from limerence – and suffer he does – I think this is one of the most accurate depictions of the affliction that I have come across – the protagonist, un named, is so intensely bound to Rachel Prince and the idea of their romance that nothing else matters; he is psychologically on the edge, unable to function rationally, all his efforts and energy are expended on seeing her and pleasing her, and that has disastrous effects.


This narrative has a very quiet considered voice and even pace, yet the first pages hook you with the revelation that the protagonist is already in gaol and is writing the story of his innocence and from then on you read expectantly waiting for the truth to be revealed. Seth provides the reader with an intimate view of the naïve protagonist’s journey into the state of limerence and self-destruction; it is heart breaking reading. Seth is an excellent story teller whose words paint a portrait of pain and love, in this instance the two emotions inseparable.