The inaugural meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

cover image

Hachette Australia, 2017. ISBN 9780733636561
(Age: Older adolescents - adult) This may appear to be simply a light-hearted read from the decorative cover, the title, and the opening story. However, although there are many lighter elements, the narrative reaches deeply into the personal lives of the characters, exploring the dramatic changes that some face. The narrative is imbued with a deep sense of overcoming hardship, yet this is balanced by the humour, positive attitudes of many, and indeed the happiness that some characters discover. Green's deft management of the characters' personalities, quirks, interactions, and ultimately, their choices is a strong element in the narrative. She structures the story to enable us to see the pain, alienation, anger, sadness, grief, loss and misfortune of her characters. Yet she structures the narrative so that her characters are able to recognise, ultimately, their own strengths, and the positive power of forgiveness, acceptance, friendship and love.
The narrative is mostly set in the outback of the Northern Territory, both in the town of Katherine and on the station that is owned by one family, over the years of 1978 to 1981. Sophie Green adds a list of pertinent events for each of these years, which supports the responses and actions of the characters both for those who would have lived through those years and those for whom this would be the distant and unknown past. The books chosen are in one sense secondary to the story but the responses of the members to those books, and indeed their choices of books, are relevant to what is happening in their lives and the club functions to enable the individual members to become a group with a shared interest.
It is definitely a book that would appeal to both older adolescent and adult readers, I would suggest, its focus being on coming to terms with the vagaries of modern life, these elements so dramatically emphasized in the vastness of the countryside in which they live, its isolation and the challenging climate of this northern part of outback Australia.
Elizabeth Bondar