Review Blog

Jul 15 2014

The simple things by Bill Condon

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Allen & Unwin, 2014 ISBN 9781743317242.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Family, Rural life. Going to visit an aunt many miles from the city is not what Steve wants to do, but his parents are concerned about her health and have not seen her for nine years. On arrival, he is told they will be there for the whole holidays, three weeks, and she is a caustic, strange old woman who does not mince her words.
At first he is taken aback when he offers a hug, her response not being what he expects, but then the two begin to see each other in a different light, as he plays jokes on her, banging the door of the outside loo when she is in there, and finding her talk about family history of interest.
Their lives become closer as he realises that she is lonely, that she is frail, but will not admit it. He tries to patch up her soured friendship with her next door neighbour, Norm Smith, now undergoing chemotherapy, and goes with Norm and his granddaughter fishing.
This is a charming story of an unusual young boy learning to accept his aunt for what she is, seeing her as others see her, but also looking underneath. Condon writes sympathetically of this woman and her family, and of the life she leads in the country town, and of her relationship with her neighbours and various other community members. Her growing delight with her nephew endears the reader to this cranky old woman, as the whole story becomes one about a developing friendship between two disparate and sometimes difficult people, with Lola finally revealing something of her past.
Fran Knight

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