My Rating: 5 / 5
Format: ARC courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: 1 October 2013
Category: Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Imprint: Macmillan Australia
“’Tallulah de Longland’, she said slowly, letting all the Ls in my name loll about lazily in her mouth before passing judgment. ‘That’, she announce, ‘is a seriously glamorgeous name.’
From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah “Lulu” de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river.
Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small, coastal town of Juniper Bay. Their lives become as entwined as Annabelle’s initials engraved beneath the de Longland kitchen table.
But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood.
Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgiveable.”
Summary and Thoughts
It’s been quite a few weeks since I read this book and one of the things that struck me is how, when I pulled it out to prepare this review, just the beautiful cover brought it all back – for me, it evokes a sense of freedom and ridding yourself of all your shackles!
The story opens with Lulu having just done something inconceivable and out of character for her, but as we continue reading, and she takes us on a nostalgic journey through her childhood to adulthood, we become privy to all the events leading up to that moment she decided to ‘step out from the shadows’. In her own words – “I did it because I was tired of being the girl who brought the ships home to shore”!
Lulu and Annabelle have been friends since the first time they met at their Catholic school, St Rita’s, and their friendship grows from that day forward. They even develop an affinity to speaking a language all their own, joining words such as precisely/exactly to form “presactly” and glamorous/gorgeous to form “glamorgeous”.
Neither girls’ home life is perfect, with Lulu’s father, Harry, “plumbing the depths of excellence”, he relies heavily on her to look after her brothers when her mother, Rose, who suffers with debilitating depressive episodes, is unable to do so and Annabelle’s parents, Annie and Frank, who are artists, are eccentric to say the least. But together it seems they can overcome all life’s hurdles.
When Lulu meets Joshua Keaton shortly after her sixteenth birthday, things couldn’t be more perfect, but as the three of them begin to get closer to one another during that summer, everyone else can see that having a third wheel could only lead to disaster – except for Lulu.
As the story continues, Lulu has grown up and pursued her own career when she finds herself working for the unconventional and flamboyant Duncan McAllister – it is her growing friendship with him, along with his blatant honesty and unconditional love that will finally allow her to discover who she really is.
Brisbane journalist Frances Whiting has captured the essence of teenage friendship, along with all of its ups and downs by portraying her characters with sympathy and a depth of understanding that pulls you into the immediacy of their lives. With only 334 pages, Frances has conveyed so much emotional depth using so few words and quirkily blended humour, nostalgia and warmth which had me roaring with laughter one minute and reaching for the Kleenex the next.
There is also a lot of food for thought in this novel with more than one serious issue at its heart, such as terminal illness and Rose’s depression. Of course, writing about any form of mental or terminal illness is fraught with danger, but Frances has balanced this out brilliantly with her lightness of tone and the comic relief which comes in the form of Rose naming all of her dresses, and dear old Duncan with all his moral ambiguities and complexities. All of this combines to make her characters’ situations real and poignant as she takes you on a memorable trip which will keep you engaged to the last page, whilst wishing that you could linger a little longer!
Beautifully written, this is a multi-layered debut which explores the fragility of friendship, the complicated nature of families, the exhilaration of first love and all the ties that bind to create lasting impressions on our lives.
A truly memorable novel with something for everyone, I have no doubt that it will be enjoyed by many and I wish to thank Pan MacMillan Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.
A Little About the Author
Frances Whiting is Queensland’s favourite and best-known female columnist. For over a decade, her weekly column in the Sunday Mail has engaged her readers in the highs, lows and unique absurdities of life. She is also Associate Editor of the Sunday Mail and Senior Feature writer for Q Weekend in the Courier-Mail.
Married with two children, when she gets the time, Frances plays the guitar (badly) and surfs (also badly).
She has published two collections of her columns, Oh To Be A Marching Girl, and That’s A Home Run, Tiger! Walking on Trampolines is Frances’s first novel.