The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

‘A single woman?’ Barbara said, eyes still on her crossword. She tapped the base of the pencil against her lip. ‘In Sandringham? Why wouldn’t she get an apartment in the city?’
‘Single women can live in Sandringham! Maybe she wanted to live by the beach.”
”But it’s an unusual choice, wouldn’t you say?’ her mum said. ‘Especially Pleasant Court.”

On the surface Pleasant Court lives up to it’s name, as a pleasant place to live. The culdesac is a peaceful, family street where everyone knows everyone. Essie, Fran and Ange are all happily married, with two children each. Essie may have had a breakdown after the birth of her first child, but her second is now six months old, and she’s coping fine, even if she does sometimes envy the lives of her two friends. the arrival of a new neighbour, though, is unexpected, and becomes the catalyst for change. What Isabelle is doing there is unclear – but it could lead to big changes inthe lives of the three friends.

The Family Next Door is, in part, a reminder that the outward lives of our neighbours are often a far cry form their reality. Told from the alternating third person perspectives of the three women, readers are party to their individual battles and turmoil. At the same time, it is Essie and her family whose storyline is most dominant, with Essie’s battle with postnatal depression, her relationship with her mother and her connection with the new neighbour, Isabelle, both intriguing and moving.

In parts wryly soap-operish, in the vein of Desperate Housewives, this is a compelling, moving read which will suprise as it entertains.

The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth
McMillan, 2018
ISBN 9781760552176

The Twentieth Man, by Tony Jones

He reached the Adria Travel Agency and went straight inside. The Serb, Risto Jadorovski, sat at a desk, talking on the telephone. Jadorovski waved to him, indicated that he should take a seat. A young woman was behind the shop counter. She smiled at him. She was a pretty young thing. He hesitated, staring back at her. Then he put down the shopping bag, turned and walked back out through the glass door.

It is 1972 and someone has planted two bombs in Sydney’s CBD, in a terror attack which shocks the country. Young journalist Anna Rosen knows at once which group will be responsible. She has been investigating the Ustasha movement, and is sure they are behind the attacks. With the impending visit of the Yugoslav prime minister, it is vital that police find those responsible. But for Anna, there’s is a more personal reason. Her former lover, Marin Katich, is linked to the Ustasha. He has been missing since he and twenty other would-be revolutionaries sneaked into Yugolsavia. As Anna’s journalism career flourishes, her connection with Katich keeps her from being completely objective.

Based on true events, this fictional account of the events of the early seventies, from journalist Tony Jones, is an intriguing look at the politics and personalities of the time.

https://t.dgm-au.com/c/328195/69171/1880?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.booktopia.com.au%2Fthe-twentieth-man-tony-jones%2Fprod9781760295004.html, by Tony Jones
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760295004

Hello, Goodbye, by Emily Brewin

I wish I could laugh too but I can’t because I’m supposed to be the serious one. the one who toes the line and never takes risks; who wears her school dress below the knees and keeps a Bible in the drawer next other bed. Ma raised me that way.

May Callaghan has been raised to be a good girl. Her mother is a devout Catholic, and she thinks May will do the right thing; say her prayers, live devoutly, then marry well. But seventeen year old May has a secret boyfriend. Sam is a star footballer, and the way he makes May feel leaves her questioning what her mother has taught her. Fed up life in her small town, may lies to her parents and sneaks to Melbourne to visit Sam. there her eyes are opened to a whole other world: including a liberal thinking shared household heavily immersed in the anti-war movement.

With her parents struggling through problems of their own, and Sam called up for service in Vietnam, May finds herself very alone facing the biggest challenge of her life.

Set in the midst of the Vietnam War,  Hello, Goodbye is a moving coming of age story. Whilst May’s relationship with Sam, and her journey through an unplanned pregnancy, are central to the story, subplots involving issues of the impact of war, conscription, family relationships, women’s rights and more are skilfully entwined.

A powerful, emotional read.

Hello, Goodbye, by Emily Brewin
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781925575101

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope

Finally they are in the queue to get back out onto the main road.
Coffee, here I come.
‘Mum…’
‘Not now, Aaron, I’m trying to concentrate.’
The traffic has built up in only a few minutes and cars scream past the service station. Malia feels her headache settle in.
This day is never going to end.
‘But Mum…’
‘What Aaron, what?’
‘Where is baby Zach, Mum? Where is he?’

It’s early morning, and already Malia knows it’s not going to be a good day. Her husband Ian has confessed to losing money on the pokies last night – money that could have paid the bills that are piling up. She’s got three kids to get ready for school and daycare. And there is no milk for breakfast. She has to get all three children into the car to make the short drive to the service station so that they can have breakfast. But something terrible happens while she’s buying the milk and suddenly her day is as bad as a day could be. Baby Zach is gone, and she is surrounded by police.

Ali Greenberg is a Detective newly returned to work from maternity leave. She’s been itching to be given a case to solve, but her boss is not sure this is the case for her. She knows better than anyone else around what it is Malia is going through. It might be a better idea to stay at the office – but she feels compelled to help Malia get her baby back.

Jackie is down on her luck. She has said sorry a thousand times, but still she has been punished for a terrible mistake. A strange turn of events gives her what she sees as a chance to put her life back together.

In one hot, troubling day, Forgotten follows the troubling, heartstopping race to find an abducted baby and reunite mother and child. The stories of four women who don’t know each other become inextricably intertwined, and readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the day unfolds.

Well crafted, this is a dramatic tale.

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296773

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones

Annie has never been the sort of person to have nightmares. But since the fires on the mountain, her dreams have changed. They have developed a pattern, as though the fire changed the landscape of everything inside her. The ridges and curves.
Her dreams are steady, the same things flickering across each night. Ash and bubbles and dark water that movs like waves.
Since the fires, since leaving her nana on the mountain, Annie has dreamt of ash. She’s dreamt of drowning.

A year ago, Annie was visiting her grandmother up the mountain when a terrible fire ripped through the area. Since leaving her nana behind to die, Annie has tried to keep her life in the city from completely falling apart. But her daughter, Pip, is traumatised, her husband Tom is angry, and Annie herself is haunted by what happened. Now, she needs to go back to her childhood home to try to get her mother’s life back on track. But being there also means confronting her own demons, and helping Pip find equilibrium.

Ache is a moving story of survival and rebuilding in the face of adversity. A whole family, and a whole community, have been impacted by the fire, and Jones captures the range of emotions and experiences which might be expected from such an event as well as examining the ways survivors can find a new normal in order to move forward.

Beautiful.

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones
Fourth Estate, Harper Collins, 2017
ISBN 9781460750384

The Scent of You, by Maggie Alderson

When you’ve been happily married for twenty-four years, you don’t expect to find yourself lying in bed alone just before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Polly didn’t even know where her husband was. She hadn’t seen him for over a week. It had been so strange having Christmas without him, and now this.
She pulled the duvet up over her head and then straight back down again. It was no good, she couldn’t sleep through it.

Polly’s life is seemingly wonderful. Her children are both away at uni, her yoga classes are popular and her perfume blog has taken off. Her mother, a glamorous ex-model, is happily settled in an upmarket retirement village. The only problem is her disappearing husband who, out of the blue, has announced (via a letter) that he needs some space and is going away travelling for six months. There is to be no contact, no questions, no explanations.

As Polly struggles to make sens of this unsettling, monumental change, it is a trio of new friends who proves to be most helpful: Shirlee, a loudmouthed student at her yoga classes, who seems to have taken over Polly’s kitchen, and thinks nothing of being woken in the middle of the night for first aid help; Guy, a new, mysterious perfumer, who is fascinated by Polly’s work and wants to impress her; and Edward, a friend from university who unexpectedly reappears in her life. As she muddles through the increasing uncertainty of her husband’s absence, these friends help Polly make sense of it, and build a new life.

The Scent of You is a tale of romance, self-discovery and friendship against the mystery and upset of an absentee husband, peppered with the scents of the main character’s world. As well as her perfume blog, entries from which pepper the book, the scents of her different experiences are entwined so evocatively into the action that the reader can smell them, and becomes a little more aware of the smells of the real world, too.

Issues of ageing, secrets and psychological illness are explored in a story which is heart warming and absorbing.

The Scent of You, by Maggie Alderson
Harper Collines, 2017
ISBN 9781460751213

Girl In Between, by Anna Daniels

‘The new guy next door. That smile! His teeth are superb! And did you see his eyes? Who has eyes that blue?’ gushes Rosie…
‘You should go for him, Rosie,’ I say.
‘No, you should go for him! You’re the one who’s been mpoing around for a year,’ says Rosie. ‘I’ve got Trent the Tradie, remember?’
‘I haven’t been moping,’ I prtoest feebly.
Rosie and Mum exchange glances, then simultaneously pull identical hangdog faces at me. I scowl back at them.

Lucy is a girl in between – between jobs, between relationships, between cities. Now she’s moved in with her parents, and her ten year old dog, Glenda, and doing not much of anything, while she recovers from the break up her relationship. Her parents might be happy to have her, but they’re not happy with her sulking. Even her best friend Rosie – who makes everything fun – is getting sick of her mooching around. It’s time to get her life back in order – but that definitely doesn’t involve hooking up with the gorgeous son of her new neighbor, who has a girlfriend already.

Girl In Between is a funny, warm story about young thirty somethings figuring out who and where they want to be in their life. Lucy and Rosie are both still single, and although they are not racing to settle down, both know they want something more than they have. Adventures and escapades in their home town of Rockhamtpon, as well as in Japan and England could help them find clarity – and, if they don’t, they’ll have fun trying.

Girl In Between, by Anna Daniels
Arena Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760295301

Troubadour, by Isolde Martyn

God ha’ mercy! Shoulder throbbing with pain, Adela stumbled to her feet. Already she could hear the shouting in the upper bailey. She took a pace forward and braced herself to be set upon; the workmen stood inert. There was a gap in this uneven horseshoe of witnesses. She recognised one of them.
‘Are ‘e daft?’ he growled. ‘Run!’

When Adela, hairbraider to the queen, finds herself the unwilling subject of King John’s attention, she flees the English court and, after stowing away on a ship, finds herself in France. Eventually she is employed as a laundry maid in the entourage of Lady Alys, an English woman on her way to marry the Lord of Mircason to forge an alliance with King John. Adela is startled to see that she and Alys have very similar appearances. When the entourage is ambushed, it is this resemblance which sees Adela, the sole survivor of the ambush, mistaken for Lady ALys, and delivered to Richart, the Lord of Mircason. Adlea knows she will not be able to maintain the deception for ever, but events seem to be overtaking her, with teh wedding looming, and her attraction for Richart growing. In the meantime, Richart’s fiefdom, and those around him, are being targeted by a crusade, coming to topple any people who harbour or befriend heretics.

Troubadour is a romantic saga set in medieval France and England, against a background of real events. Martyn brings to life the political machinations and court life of the times with colour and detail, and the action moves at a satisfying pace.

With an intriguing cast of characters, and a satisfying romantic plot, Troubadour is highly recommended.

Troubadour , by Isolde Martyn
Harlequin, 2017
ISBN 9781489220370

The Shape of Us, by Lisa Ireland

This time it would work. She would lose the weight in tome for her birthday. And maybe she’d say yes yo that holiday in Thailand Sean was always nagging her about. Tomorrow she would start on the readiness tasks she was supposed to do before Monday when the program kicked off. But tonight she may as well finish off the rest of these chocolates. After all, the first task was to rid the house of any tempting foods.

Four women who have never met in person connect through an online forum. They are all very different: one is a young mother, with a rocky relationship and no family support. Another is happily married and a successful businesswoman, but longs for a child. A third has it all – career, children and a happy marriage. The fourth has moved backwards in her career to be closer to her lover. What connects these very different women is that they are all very overweight, and have joined the forum in a desperate attempt to lose weight. At first online and, later, in person, they  become friends and support each other through times much harder any of them could have imagined.

The Shape of Us is a story  about friendship. Though weight loss (or the desire to lose weight) is what brings the friends together, they connect and support each other in many different ways, and weight becomes almost a background issue.  The use of a blend of third person narrative and blog entries from the perspectives of all four women is an unusual and effective means of getting inside each character’s lives and emotions.

Although weight loss ceases to be the overriding issue of the book, the differing weight loss experiences of the characters, as well as their experiences surrounding being overweight, is an intriguing premise for a book. Issues of family support, body image, infertility, surgical intervention and more are explored.

At heart, though, this is about the bonds which bring women together and the ways they support each other.

The Shape of Us, by Lisa Ireland
Macmillan, 2017
ISBN 9781760550875