Tag Archives: Family

Review: Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope

Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope

‘What a mess, she thought now . . . what a bloody, unholy mess the whole family has got itself into.’

It’s been twenty-five years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard and wine business from the ground up. However, when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in . . .

Sebastien is busy running his company with his wife, Anna, who’s never quite seen eye-to-eye with her mother-in-law.

Katie, a successful solicitor in the City, is distracted by the problems with her long-term partner, Nic, and the secretive lives of their three daughters.

And Jake, ever the easy-going optimist, is determined to convince his new wife, Bella, that moving to Spain with their eighteen-month-old would be a good idea.

As the children descend on the vineyard, it becomes clear that each has their own idea of how best to handle their mum and dad, as well as the family business. But as long-simmering resentments rise to the surface and tensions reach breaking point, can the family ties prove strong enough to keep them together?

Published 31 March 2020 |  Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

So despite the fact that I know you think I’m wet and useless and defeatist, I’m actually just trying to elude being stamped on by everyone else, flattened, obliterated. It may sound pathetic to you, but I just want people to be kind. Kind to me, and to each other. That’s all.

Monica and Gus chose to live in Spain; away from their children who live in England. Or rather, Monica followed Gus in realising his dreams of a vineyard. As a family, they are rather more estranged than familiar with huge big gaps between each member. When Gus suffered a stroke, however, things began to boil over until one and then two and then the rest begins to open up and one talks to the other.

This isn’t a book that I’d pick up on my own; not by its description anyway. I’m too wary of family stories as I’ve had enough of mine own. However, I kind of liked the cover so thought I’d give it a go. It was a matter of discipline of reading 2 chapters per day. That made it sound rather terrible, isn’t it? But, it was a pretty sad & heartbreaking story. At least, to begin with, it was, but thankfully the ending wasn’t too bad. Although, I did wonder how realistic it was… Probably only a small percentage of family will survive for the better or am I being a cynic?

Overall, <i>Mum & Dad</i> is a wonderful book in showing just how gaps and misunderstandings can be bridged by being open, talking honestly and willingness to forgive. I enjoyed Trollope’s prose and her descriptions of Spain had me enthralled to the end.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Joanna Trollope is the author of many highly acclaimed and bestselling novels, including The Rector’s Wife, Marrying the Mistress and Daughters in Law. She was appointed OBE in 1996, a trustee of the National Literacy Trust in 2012, and a trustee of the Royal Literary Fund in 2016. She has chaired the Whitbread and Orange Awards, as well as being a judge of many other literature prizes including chairing the BBC National Short Story Awards for 2017. Mum and Dad is her twenty-second novel.

Find author on:  goodreads  |  website  |  facebook

Review: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died — a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family — Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of Australian classics like Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, and Jasper Jones, Little Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

Published March 2018 |  Publisher: Allen & Unwin  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (2.5 / 5 stars)

I struggled with this novel. According to GR, I started reading at the end of April. I think I tried for 2 days’ commuting’s worth (approx 3.5 hours) and gave up. Usually, I would’ve nearly finished a novel but I read only about 1/3 of this novel. This was months ago so all I vaguely remember is the jumbled confusion on who’s who. The novel is told from solely from Olive’s perspective and most of the time, she refers to her mother by her name (the same applies to her aunts & uncles). There were 3 sisters and 3 brothers and somehow they formed one big family. It took me absolutely forever to sort them out. Actually, I don’t think I did then…

Today, I decided that the book deserves one last chance. Unbelievably, I caught on fairly quickly and finished the novel in no time at all. I guess the story did pick up after the confusing first third of the book. All the background set up is done and we can actually progress with what’s happened next. It’s obvious from the book’s description that the mystery was a tragedy and it’s something the family does not speak about. I admired Olive’s persistence in finding out the truth and when it hurt (a lot of inferences need to be drawn by the readers as to what’s actually happened; I was rather annoyed with this), she dealt and lived.

I wanted to read this book as it supposedly echoed Seven Little Australians, Cloudstreet, & Jasper Jones. I loved these three Aussie classics but unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Little Gods. Maybe, I picked it up at the wrong time and so struggled badly with the beginning of it, who knows?! Whilst I totally agree that this novel has a very Aussie vibes, I’m left dissatisfied at the close of the book.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin for copy of book in exchange of honest review


About the author

Jenny Ackland is a writer and teacher from Melbourne. She has worked in offices, sold textbooks in a university bookshop, taught English overseas and worked as a proof-reader and freelance editor. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and listed in prizes and awards. Her debut novel The Secret Son – a “Ned Kelly-Gallipoli mash-up” about truth and history – was published in 2015. Little Gods is her second novel.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  instagram

Review: The Three of Us by Kim Lock

The Three of Us by Kim Lock

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heartwarming depiction of love against the odds.

My Blurb (5 stars)

The one sure thing I know I’ll come across in this novel is a female character giving birth. Well, okay, maybe I don’t actually know for sure but that’s 3 out of 3! It’s not the focus of this particular novel but it’s there… I remember my reading experience of Lock’s novel (Peace, Love, and Khaki Socks) and I could never forget that birthing scene and it will always forever colour my view of Kim Lock’s novels. She’s just gone from strength to strength!

The Three of Us opens with Thomas Mullet, a 70+ year old man, at his first appointment with a counselor. He’s there because he’s running out of time and needed guidance on what to do before time’s up. And within 5 pages, the first bomb was dropped. And it was a pretty big one…

There isn’t much I could say about the book without giving hints which may spoil it for you. Whatever your first expectation is… that’s not it. What I can say, however, was that it’s a love story; there is heartbreak and there is happiness. This book spans about 50 years of these characters’ lives. It began in the 60s when Thomas & Elsie just begun their lives as husband & wife. When brides are to give up their fulfilling jobs and maintain an efficient sparkling household. It ended in more recent times when wives and/or mothers are expected to work full time and maintain an efficient sparkling household. But still… in the span of half a century, society has not change all that much

‘Society is more tolerant?’

Thomas gave a wry laugh. ‘We like to think so, don’t we? But I reckon it’s just different versions of the same intolerance. There’s still criticism – horrible things still happen because of narrow minds.’

It was a very uncomfortable read for the first third of the book. Mainly because I have an aversion towards a certain trope and I was very anxious for it not to be employed here. By the end of the first third, the second bomb detonated. A little relief with the way the plot is taking but it was still a rather uncomfortable read. Uncomfortable because we do not speak of these things; we do not expect it in our mundane daily life (as an aside, I actually do know one household and… whatever works for them to be happy, you know).

This is the best of Kim Lock to date even though I still preferred her first work (being lighter in mood). However, The Three of Us is a novel we currently need in the world. The world does not change by itself. We change it. And sometimes, we need a prompt, a push, a nudge, a shove, to change it. In The Three of Us, you will find a love story like no other. I would highly recommend it for a bookclub read. I can guarantee you a very lively discussion! Some wine and chocolates are warranted to chill things a little.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Kim Lock was born in 1981. She is the author of two previous novels Like I can Love and Peace, Love and Khaki Socks. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Guardian, Daily Life, and the Sydney Morning Herald onlineShe lives in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, with her partner and their children, a dog and a couple of cats.

Find Kim on: goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Come back tomorrow for Q&A with Kim! 😀

Review: Careful, He Might Hear You

Careful, He Might Hear You by Sumner Locke Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: My local library -get your own copy direct from Text Classics

This is actually my first read for 2013. We were going to the beach on New Year’s Day and I took the couple of days before to consider which book I’d like to start the year with. I still didn’t quite decide ‘til nearly the last minute. We went to Balmoral Beach and when I cracked this book open, by happy coincidence, it was set around that area (Balmoral Beach / Neutral Bay). I was stoked!
I made a mistake by reading the Introduction though for it told me more of the story that I’d like to know and I continued reading with a hesitant spirit. I wanted to get it over it but I kinda already knew that will happen and I hated that feeling! I resolve from now on to skip Introductions (maybe to save it til after the reading).

The Child and the Mother in me protest at calling a child PS (short for Postscript). Understandably, whilst it was the mother who began the nickname whilst bub is still peanut-size, I found it unbelievable that it would carry on for years! To read, in the Introduction, that “the painful struggles of PS…is based on his [the author’s] own experiences in childhood”, made this story especially painful knowing that it was partially, mostly true.

PS had 4 aunties (his mother’s sisters): one whom he lived with & mothers him so, one who adores him but only when convenient, one who believes the end of the world is coming in a few months’ time, and one who lives half a world away but is on her way to take charge of him. I did not find any of these aunties to be endearing and hence, my not liking this book so much.

Aunt Lila is basically the mother he knows but she is overly protective among other annoying habits. Spelling every inconvenient not-so-happy thing / someone or even disguising ‘unhappy’ bits to make them sound innocent and lovely was a bit much for me. Reading it was smothering and I can just imagine what effects it would have on a child who is now old enough to understand if some adult will take the time to explain things to him.

Aunt Vanessa wants him for reasons she herself doesn’t quite realise. She’s determined to change him, to mould him to what she wants him to be. PS is fascinated by her and at the same time, frightened of her and is disliked her for the changes she’s wrought in his life. Being pulled in 2 directions with family politics and machinations of which he isn’t aware of the details of but could understand enough from the moods of his aunties, that things aren’t well, distressed him. Aunt Vanessa’s silent treatment and moodiness upset him.

I’m not a perfect or the best mother around but the mothering in this book irks me so! It might have been typical of the time to assume that a child just will not understand many of the issues however it never does well to underestimate what a child will understand. In the end (as most of the book is told from PS’ perspective), it is PS who is empowered –who grasped the knowledge of self and grabbed hold of it, looking forward.

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