Review Blog

May 14 2014

The simple things by Bill Condon

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Ill. by Beth Norling. Allen & Unwin, 2014. ISBN 9781743317242.
Recommended 7-12 year olds. In this modern and busy world what are the simple things? Bill Condon explores this through the eyes of a shy young boy Stephen and his aged great Aunt Lola who he meets for the first time. This is a gentle story of the amusing and at times poignant meeting of two generations who learn to enjoy each other's friendship.
Stephen meets his great Aunt Lola when he and his parents come to stay for 3 weeks. Lola who turns eighty soon lives in a rundown house in a country town a day's drive away. As Stephen's mum is her sole living relative the family intend to spend the holidays looking after her and celebrating her birthday.
Lola is a 'grumpy old biddy' according to Stephen's dad. After a bit of a rocky start Stephen begins to discover that while Lola is a little forbidding and is critical of his language, there is more and more to learn about her. For example she is researching and compiling the family history, what is in the private room which no one is allowed to enter, why Lola is no longer friends with Norm Smith, the next door neighbour and what secret is Lola hiding.
As Stephen's relationship with Lola develops and he also becomes friendly with Allie, Mr Smith's granddaughter, and discovers the joy of watching the sunrise, fishing, bingo, playing cricket and climbing trees. But then Lola collapses and is taken to hospital and Stephen is faced with the possibility of her death.
Bill Condon is a master of dialogue. The developing relationship between Stephen and Lola is largely told through their conversations and as their mutual love and respect grow so the tone of their interactions, particularly on Lola's part, mellow.
While this book is written for younger readers, there are many adults who will enjoy the story and will shed a tear or two as they reflect on lost dreams and relationships.
Sue Keane

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