A long time friend gave me The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Bookclub by Sophie Green for my birthday with a little trepidation. She knows I read a lot and was worried it may not have been a book to my liking. How wrong she was – I found this book not only enjoyable but it made me jealous of this writer’s ability to put you in place, to describe perfectly emotions that I struggled to describe in my own book. But let me tell you about the story first.
It was set in the Australia’s Northern Territory on a vast, remote cattle property in 1978. It was hot and arid for most of the year, becoming humid in the wet which saw the property cut off from everything as the red bull dust turned to sludge. A family ran the property and the son had just returned from Britain with his bride. In an effort to make her life easier Sybil Baxter started the Fairvale Ladies Book club which consisted of Sybil, the mother, her daughter-in-law, an American jillaroo from the next property (a couple of hours drive away), a mother that lived in the closest town (also a couple of hours away) and the flying doctor nurse who flew in from Alice Springs.
The themes in this book were many – interracial relationships, death, grief, miscarriage, isolation, domestic violence, resilience and friendship, love and trauma. It is set over a few years – the life of the book club – and prior to each year commencing the author gives a list of news events that happened in that year. This I loved as it put me back in that year with both memories of the events and of what life in general was like at that time.
Green’s ability to describe the setting put you there. You felt the isolation. You felt the pain of the mother when the daughter had a snake bite. The flying doctor had to come from Alice Spring. Her drawing of the characters was also skilled making you like them or hate them and she had you emotionally involved. You were bound to them feeling their pain and happiness because these people were real.
The raw emotion that she described so well was where I became a tad jealous. She had managed to describe what I had wanted to in my book Nightmare in Paradise but had been unable to. Listen to the difference:
me: on hearing of the unexpected death of my father.
” ‘But he’s okay?’ I responded.
‘No. He’s dead.’
‘Nooooo!’ A long guttural scream emanated from someplace deep within as I dropped the phone, sinking to my knees on the floor crying.”
Sophie Green: on Sybil hearing of the death of her fiance Ray.
“…..There was that noise again. It was so odd. It sounded like it was in her head but also coming from outside the room,
She took a breath. She had to think about it because she wasn’t sure if she was breathing. Then that noise again. That noise was her, wasn’t it? She could feel it pulling itself up from her gut. It wasn’t a cry. It wasn’t a howl. It was a protest.
This is not real. I refuse to believe it.
Such rational words and she wanted to say them. But all she had was this noise, …..”
Thank you Sophie Green for expressing so well what I felt that day.
Would I recommend this book: Indeed I would. In fact I am considering it as my choice for book club dependent on whether our library has any copies.