Review: The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

 

Title: The Weight of Him

Author: Ethel Rohan

Published: June 1st 2017, Atlantic Books

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“I thought I had time. I was always going to stop bingeing and get fit the next Monday, and the next Monday, and the next. Then Michael, and … and, I don’t know … I couldn’t let it be for nothing. I had to make some kind of sense, some good, come of it. He died and I couldn’t save him, so I wanted to save myself, save what remained of this family. Then I realized I could save others, too, while I was at it.”

Billy Brennan is reeling after the suicide of his oldest son, Michael, even in hindsight he finds it impossible to make sense of his son’s death. Determined that no other family should experience such a tragedy, Billy decides to raise funds in support of suicide awareness and prevention programs, by losing half of his formidable 400lb body weight.

Billy’s crusade is all consuming, but neither his wife and remaining children, nor his parents, are supportive. Rohan tenderly explores grief and the ways in which individuals, and society as whole, experience it, particularly in relation to suicide. For Billy his plans for sponsored weight loss, a march, and a documentary, are ways in which he can honour Michael, while his family feels that they draw unwelcome attention, suspicion, and shame.

Also at issue in the novel is Billy’s struggle with obesity, with which I can empathise. Billy’s main motivation for weight loss is because he recognises that the health risks associated with his condition further threatens the instability of his family. Billy is terrified he will fail them, though none of them have any faith that he will be able to succeed. Rohan’s portrayal of Billy’s experience as an obese person feels authentic, as does her understanding of the struggle to lose weight.

Rohan draws parallels between the void that some obese people are trying to fill when they overeat, and the void that some suicidal people feel trapped in.

Though perhaps lacking in nuance, The Weight of Him is a heartfelt and eloquent novel about the challenges of grief, love and living.

++++++

 

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Review: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Title: Viral

Author: Helen Fitzgerald

Published: 4th February 2016, Faber & Faber

Status: Read February 2016 – Courtesy Faber/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“I sucked twelve c*cks in Magaluf.

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me do this. They might include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth-year biology teacher and my boyfriend of six weeks, James.”

Helen Fitzgerald pulls no punches from the first line of this book, a contemporary novel that explores the consequences of a drunken indiscretion gone viral.

Su Oliphant-Brotheridge and her sister Leah, are celebrating the end of A-Level exams in Magaluf when a few too many drinks on their last evening abroad, results in Su on her knees in a nightclub. When a recording of the incident is uploaded to the internet, Su panics and goes into hiding, hoping not only to avoid, but also to protect her family from, the worst of the inevitable notoriety.

“#shagaluf is trending worldwide on Twitter. If you type the word slut into Google, I am the first news item to appear.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for any parent. To their credit, Su’s parents -Ruth and Bernie, are more concerned for their daughter’s wellbeing than shaming her for her mistake. Even as it begins to affect their own professional and personal lives, they frantically attempt to minimise the fallout which threatens to derail Su’s future. When it’s clear they losing the battle, Ruth, a court judge, grows increasingly furious that no one can be held legally accountable for the viral video that has caused such destruction, and takes matters into her own hands.

“Xano, you have been found guilty of filming the sexual assault of my daughter. You have been found guilty of sharing abusive images. You have been found guilty of sharing lewd images without consent. You have been found guilty of destroying the life of Su Brotheridge-Oliphant. Guilty of destroying her self-image, her confidence, her friendships, her past and future relationships, her sexual well-being, her career, and her entire future. In relation to destroying my career: guilty. My life, everything I’ve worked for, fought for, and loved: guilty. And last, on the count of the murder of Bernard Brotheridge: guilty.”

Meanwhile, Leah is ordered to find her sister and bring her home. Fitzgerald explores the troubled dynamic between the sisters as they wrestle with feelings of resentment, jealousy, guilt, and blame.

“I’ve spent years pussyfooting around you and all you’ve done is treat me like dirt. Did you spike my drink because your friends started liking me, Leah? Were you mad about that? You feel left out, that the order of the universe was shaken? Did you shout “go, go go” because you wanted me back in my place, because it was such a blast to watch me ruin myself?“

But this is really Su’s story as she tries to reconcile what she has done with who she is. It’s a compelling narrative which I thought Fitzgerald presented well…until the last few chapters.

“Don’t let it be the thing that defines you.”

I understood Su’s desire to search for her birth mother, but finding her was ridiculously easy, and the situation devolved from there. Similarly Su’s flight of fancy, after her return to Magaluf, was a bit silly.

Aside from those final missteps, I thought this was a well paced, thought provoking and relevant novel. Not her best, but I found it engaging.

++++++

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Review: After The Party by Cassie Hamer

 

 

Title: After the Party

Author: Cassie Hamer

Published: March 2019, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dear Lisa,

I’m sorry. Please know this, above all else. I am truly sorry to put this responsibility on you but I have been left with little choice.”

After an exhausting morning hosting 32 kindergarten children for her daughter’s fifth birthday, Lisa Wheeldon is stunned to learn that one tiny guest won’t be collected any time soon. In amongst the gifts, is a heartfelt plea for Lisa to look after six year old Ellie for a few weeks while her mother, a complete stranger, deals with some unspecified crisis. Lisa knows she should notify the relevant authorities, but having experienced the perils of the foster system first hand, decides she will care for Ellie, at least temporarily, while making every effort to track down the absent mother.

Child abandonment seems an unlikely theme in which to find humour, but Hamer somehow does as Lisa enlists the help of her sister, Jamie, and an odd selection of school mum’s she barely knows, in an effort to find Ellie’s missing mother. Lisa’s attempts are well intentioned, but she doesn’t have the cunning, or know how, to deal with the situation she finds herself in, so she does what she can do well, which is care for Ellie.

As a mother, I could relate to several of Lisa’s experiences in the book – the chaos of children’s birthday parties, and the gossipy and competitive nature of primary school mum’s particularly, though Lisa’s naivety is a bit of a stretch.

I think the story could included less of Jamie’s relationship troubles, they were a distraction. I think the plot would have been better served by focusing more on ‘Missy’, Ellie’s mum’s, past and present.

I think Hamer just tried to include too much, not an unusual error in a debut novel, so the focus was split and in the end, the novel was a bit messy. However, I did enjoy the humour, and overall found After the Party to be a quick, easy read.

++++++

 

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Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon

Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeymoon

Published: HarperCollins UK, March 2018

Status: Read September 2018

++++++

My Thoughts:

With an interesting main character, and an unexpectedly compelling narrative, I really enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

“I have always taken great pride in managing my life alone. I’m a sole survivor—I’m Eleanor Oliphant. I don’t need anyone else—there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity. That’s what I’ve always told myself, at any rate.”

All that slowly changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, and the elderly Sammy.

Somewhat of an unreliable narrator, this character driven story is filtered by Eleanor’s unique perspective, coloured by what is likely a neuroatypical disorder and the experience of repressed trauma. Eleanor evokes both pity and empathy, you can’t help but root for her to break free from her self imposed limits.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a poignant story, dark and yet ultimately uplifting, this is a completely fine novel.

+++++

Available to Purchase from

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Read an Excerpt.

 

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Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker

Title: The Cottage at Rosella Cove

Author: Sandie Docker

Publisher: Michael Joseph January 2019

Status: Read March 2019

******

 

My Thoughts:

The Cottage at Rosella Cove is the second novel by Australian author, Sandie Docker.

Themes explored through the novel Include friendship, love, loss, grief, betrayal and hope. The story involves three timelines, which Docker handles remarkably well.

In the present, Nicole Miller arrives at Rosella Cove. In exchange for renovating a cottage on the bluff, she has a rent free six month lease during which she hopes to heal her wounds, and reimagine a new future. Despite planning on spending her time in the Cove alone, Nicole is quickly befriended by the community, particularly local family Mandy, Trevor, Jack, and family friend, Danny Temple, who cheerfully offer to help with the renovations. Nicole also strikes up a friendship of sorts with Charlie, widely considered to be a curmudgeonly old hermit, who has his own story to tell.

The near past timeline explains why Nicole felt compelled to flee to Rosella Cove. Docker explores Nicoles experiences thoughtfully, slowly revealing the reason for Nicole’s fragile emotional state.

The distant past, is revealed through a series of letters Nicole discovers hidden behind the fireplace. The letters are all written by the former owner of the cottage, Ivy Wilson, to her husband beginning in 1941, and continue until her death in 1976. These letters reveal the joys and heartbreak of Ivy’s life, and in part, help Nicole come to terms with the direction her own life has taken.

Docker’s Rosella Cove is a small coastal community, not dissimilar from those a stones throw from me. I can easily visualise the cottage, boathouse, and the towns general environs based on the authors descriptions. The inhabitants of the Cove, both in the past and present, are fairly typical of the genre.

I enjoyed The Cottage at Rosella Cove, the story was both sweet and poignant, and has a warm, genuine feel.

 

******

Available to Purchase from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

or your preferred retailer

Read an Excerpt

Review: The Helpline by Katherine Collette

Title: The Helpline

Author: Katherine Collette

Published: Text Publishing September 18th 2018

Status: Read on Feb 9th, 2019

My Thoughts:

Collette’s debut, The Helpline, is similar in vein to recent popular novels such as Simison’s ‘The Rosie Project’ and Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’.

Senior mathematician, Germaine, is a self proscribed expert in sodoku, the value of efficiency, and the immutability of numbers, but she is also uncomfortably socially inept, and awkwardly naive. Unceremoniously dismissed from her job of some fifteen years for reasons that she never quite articulates, Germaine finds herself working for the local council on the Senior Helpline, determined to prove her worth, and rebuild her career. Quickly singled out by the Mayor for a ‘special project’, Germaine is eager to please, especially when she learns that the project involves her childhood hero, former Sodoku champion, Alan Cosgrove aka Don Thomas. For Germaine, the need to resolve the Mayor’s standoff with the Senior Citizen’s Center, which happens to adjoin Don’s Golf Club, is a matter of responsibility and efficiency, until her equations are complicated by the unpredictable nature of the human factor.

Though Germaine is not always a particularly likeable character, I did warm up to her. Her neuro-atypical traits are never specifically identified but her different perspective is clear. The slightly eccentric supporting characters are varied, from feisty senior citizen, Cecelia Brown, to biscuit hoarder, Eva, and the inevitable love interest, bare kneed IT guy, Jack.

Generally, The Helpline was an enjoyable read. I liked the overall plot and it’s Australian setting, council going-on’s are actually a ripe setting for pathos, and humour.

Available to Purchase from

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Review: The Light on The Water by Olga Lorenzo

 

Title: The Light on the Water

Author: Olga Lorenzo

Published: Allen & Unwin March 2016

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Status: Read from May 28 to 29, 2016 — I own a copy  courtesy of Allen & Unwin

My Thoughts:

The Light on the Water by Olga Lorenzo is a thoughtful novel exploring a myriad of the themes, most notably motherhood, grief, guilt and love.

Two long years after her young autistic daughter disappeared during an overnight hike, Anne Baxter is on the precipice of being charged with Aida’s murder. Shunned by her neighbours and vilified by the media, Anne waits…and hopes.

This is a story that focuses on character rather than action. Anne is a hugely sympathetic character, trapped in a hellish kind of limbo. The main figures of The Light on the Water are complex, and Lorenzo avoids many of the typical stereotypes of the genre, even with the dysfunction that plagues the members of Anne’s family.

Of particular note is the manner in which Lorenzo explores the response of the wider community to Anne’s plight. From almost the moment Aida is reported missing, Anne must endure the suspicion of strangers, all too ready to condemn her for any real, perceived, or even imagined action that has led to her daughter’s disappearance. No matter the truth of Aida’s fate, Anne is judged to be at fault.

The Light on the Water is a quietly compelling story. Simply written, it nevertheless evokes a wealth of emotion. The tension builds nicely as the story unfolds at a measured pace, though I felt the subplot involving the refuge was an unnecessary distraction.

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Review: This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger

 

Title: This Was Not The Plan

Author: Cristina Alger

Published: Touchstone Feb 2016

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Status: Read from February 06 to 07, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I’ve delayed writing this review because I don’t really have a lot to say about This Was Not The Plan by Cristina Alger.

It’s a quick, light read populated by charming characters (especially young Caleb), but there isn’t anything particularly unique or memorable about it. Perhaps it is because it features a single father in a role more often relegated to a single mother, struggling with the work/life balance and difficult relationships, that it is receiving rave reviews online, or perhaps I have missed some profundity.

Not a bad read, just not a particularly special one.

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Review: The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

 

Title: The Flood Girls

Author: Richard Fifield

Published: Gallery Books Feb 2016

Read and Extract

Status: Read from February 09 to 11, 2016 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield is an engaging story of regrets and redemption set in small-town America.

After almost a decade’s absence, Rachel Flood is back in Quinn, Montana (Population:956) to make amends for the devastation she wrought as a wild teen to an openly hostile collection of family, (ex) friends and enemies. After a week of scathing silence, pointed glares and outright threats, Rachel is on the verge of admitting defeat when her mother, Laverna Flood, the proprietor of one of Quinn’s two taverns ‘The Dirty Shame’, is targeted in a robbery and her injuries require Rachel to take her mother’s place behind the bar, and on the local women’s softball team.

This is a story full of family dysfunction, addiction, friendship, failure and forgiveness. Rachel’s search for redemption is complicated, and no-one is inclined to make it easy on her, least of all her self.

Fifield has created an eccentric and often outlandish cast, including the uncompromising Laverna, the frightening Red and Black Mabel’s (distinguished by a rotten smile), Rachel’s no nonsense sponsor, Athena, and the members of the softball team. The town’s three rookie firefighter volunteers are all named Jim, the Police Chief runs the local AA meetings, and Reverend Foote is determined to convert the town’s sinners.

Of all the characters however is Rachel’s neighbour, twelve year old Jake, who is the most endearing. A devotee of Madonna and Jackie Collins, with an individual sense of style and fashion, he is mature beyond his years, but his effeminate manner infuriates his brutal stepfather. Jake is one of the few residents of Quinn willing to give Rachel a chance, and a delightful bond develops between them.

Though the humour is a little uneven and the plot not particularly original, The Flood Girls is written with heart and a genuine feel for small town life. A strong debut.

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Blog Tour Review: All That is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster

 

Title: All That is Lost Between Us

Author: Sara Foster

Published: Simon & Schuster AU Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

All That is Lost Between Us is a compelling modern domestic thriller from Sara Foster.

Unfolding from the perspectives of the four members of the Turner family, it is a story about guilt, secrets, betrayal and loyalty.

Seventeen year old Georgia Turner, high school student and champion Fells runner, is preoccupied by a secret she can’t share, not even with her best friend and cousin, Sophia.
Anya is frustrated by her inability to connect with her increasingly withdrawn daughter who spurns both her concern and affection, as does her husband, Callum.
Callum, mired in unspoken resentments, has thrown himself into his voluntary work with the local Fells rescue team, and taken solace in the attentions of a younger colleague.
When Zac accidentally discovers a shocking photo hidden in his sister’s bedroom, he is at a loss as how to best deal with his discovery.

A hit and run incident involving Georgia and Sophia is the catalyst that drives the members of the Turner family to the brink of crisis. As suspicion grows that the actions of the unidentified driver was deliberate, Foster builds the tension as secrets begin to collide.

One of the main themes Foster’s story thoughtfully explores is the vulnerabilities of family. Emotional distance has frayed the bonds between husband and wife, parent and child, in All That is Lost Between Us. The strained relationships are sensitively and realistically portrayed, disconnected, they are each vulnerable in the crisis and struggle to bridge the gap to offer each other the support they need.

Georgia’s angst is well drawn, her increasingly fraught emotional state is believable as she obsesses over her secret with the self absorption of youth.
I empathised strongly with Anya, it is difficult to let your children pull away from you, to find the balance between encouraging them to make their own choices, and protect them from their inevitable mistakes. My oldest daughter is 19 and I too feel as if she is “breaking off a piece of my heart and taking it with her.” as she forges her own life.

Set in England’s Lake District, Foster’s descriptions of the landscape are vivid and evocative. The rugged beauty of the Fells, its craggy peaks and forested valleys and sheer cliffs, also reflects the changeable emotional states of the characters.

All That is Lost Between Us is a captivating read I’d recommend to both an adult and mature young adult audience.

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