Gang of Four, by Liz Byrski

When Isabel decides she needs a break she doesn’t opt for a couple of weeks in a classy resort. No, she wants to take a year out and leave her husband, children, grandchildren and friends behind while she backpacks across Europe. Feeling incomplete, she wants to do something for herself and, at the same time, get to know her dead mother better by retracing her journey decades ago.

When Isabel tells her closest friends – Sally Robin and Grace – of her plans, they initially think she’s crazy. But soon enough each of the remaining members of the ‘gang of four’ are embarking on their own journeys. Sally heads off to San Francisco for a year’s study, hoping also to lay a guilty secret to rest. Robin, sick of being ‘the other woman’, rents a country hideout, hoping for time to heal and to make plans for her future. Grace, the sensible one, isn’t sure she needs to ‘do’ anything, but finds herself heading off for a short holiday in England – where she has to confront someone she hardly knows: herself.

These four very different women, separated by geographical distance, but united by their decades-old friendship, each learn about themselves, their past and their future in very different ways. New friendships are formed, life-changing decisions are made, but when one of the friends needs the others, they are able to come together once more.

Gang of Four is a very different coming-of-age story in that the protagonists are all in their fifties. Author Liz Byrski does a superb job of crafting four very different stories which overlap, diverge and merge again throughout the book. The reader is given the opportunity to know each of the four women intimately and to witness their friendship and their growth on a first hand basis.


Gang of Four, by Liz Byrski
Macmillan, 2004