The Inaugural Meeting of the
Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green
Review copy provided by Hachette Australia, August 2017
This book was a pleasant surprise. It’s the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society book meets the Australia movie, in this story of five women who live in the harsh, changing landscape of Australia’s Northern Territory. Set in the late nineteen seventies, before mobile phones and reliable internet connections, the realities of rural isolation bring the women together to chat about books. The book club brings them together, but it’s the friendships that make the connections last.
The story begins with Sybil, the matriarch of Fairvale Station. She’s strong and in control, but also very caring and is faced with finding a balance to allow herself to feel grief and loss and also be responsible for the running of a large station and all of the employees who live and work there too.
Rita is Sybil’s closest friend and works as a nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor’s service in remote locations. She discovers that there are little twists and turns in life that can forge new paths, depending on what she makes of it.
Della is an American who has settled in a nearby station, she works alongside the men, and one of the men on Fairvale catches her attention. There’s racial, gender and lifestyle tensions that the pair must overcome.
Sallyanne is a dutiful wife and mother of two; who keeps her head down in romance novels to distract her from a husband that is anything but a romantic hero. The book club offers Sallyanne not only friendship, but allows her to develop a sense of identity outside of being a wife and mother and also helps her discover that she does not have to settle for the life that she has.
Finally, there’s Sybil’s daughter-in-law Kate who migrated from England and married Ben. The bookclub offers her social connectedness, much needed emotional support when she experiences a distressing event and helps her make sense of the new land she calls her home .
This book has such a unique premise. It was a slow-burn, but had me flipping the pages quickly at the end to find out what happened for each of the women. I also loved that each time period was prefaced with a list of news events (1978-1981) as it really helped me feel grounded in the time and place. It also gave a broader perspective on the societal/ political environment in contrast to the isolated community in which the characters live. A great read!