Review Blog

Jul 26 2019

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

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Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9780733641169.
(Age: Adolescent - Adult) This delightful novel plunges us into the lives of four women at different stages in their lives. Meeting at one of Sydney's beaches for a daily swim, named as Shelly Beach in the novel, the four women discover a lifting of the spirit, supported as they are by the growing understanding, interest and care of the others. The issues that the women face are very much at the heart of coping with the changing world of today, and, even more so, of recognizing the challenge of the roles that each plays.
While on the surface this may appear to be a 'light read', Green's gentle persuasive tone lures us into the lives of these women and we are caught up in their growing friendship and daily lives. While Green explores the complications that the four women have in their lives, she also draws characters who are able to change, developing greater strengths to face their challenges. Each discovers that the caring support of others enables them to face their lives with a more positive stance and stronger determination to complete what they have begun. Focussing on each one's issue in the individual chapters, Green draws us into the increasingly important shared times swimming in the beautiful, deep waters of the bay, and what that offers each woman. We realise that, for the women, this recurrent meeting enables a deeper exploration of the complexities of their lives, and we begin to see the strength of the circle that can support them.
Leanne, a nurse, offers support and care to patients but is alienated from her family. Swimming with the others, she experiences the 'magic' of the sea. Marie lives alone, surviving on the age pension. She finds the friendship of the others and the freedom of the water exhilarating. Elaine moved to Sydney from England with her Australian husband, a doctor who works long hours, and has begun to use alcohol while spending much time alone. Theresa is married with two young boys, her husband having left her. Her mother, delightfully spirited and supportive, helps in the home while keeping her own 'room' in the garden shed.
Ultimately this story is a lesson to all of us in these busy worlds that we inhabit, that giving and receiving kindness, friendship and support can bring about change in our lives, especially in our level of well-being. This is a book for both adults and adolescents who are curious as to the decisions they might make as adults. Indeed, it is probably a woman's book, but would be a salutary lesson for all genders as the modern world is shown to present difficulties, intruding and sometimes alienating us from what matters in life.
Elizabeth Bondar

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