Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
“It’s funny, isn’t it? She said. “How we find out more from books than we do from life sometimes?… Books give us the benefit of a lot of people’s experiences…They give us more options to choose from – more ways to live – than we could ever find on our own”.
This is exactly what this book has done for me. Through reading about the lives of the women involved in the book club I have learnt much about a part of Australia I have never visited. Set in the Northern Territory on a cattle property, the book tells of the lives of the people, so isolated from others, the disadvantages, the climactic conditions and the diversity of people who find their way there and who all fall in love with the wide blue sky and the colour palette which changes with the seasons and time of day.
Sybil moved from Sydney to the Northern Territory when she married Joe. Now her oldest son has left and wants nothing to do with them allowing the younger son, Ben, to step up and help his father run the large cattle property, Fairvale Station. She mourns the loss of her first born but is supported by the community around her and her long-time friend Rita.
Rita has also come to the Northern Territory as a nurse for the Flying Doctor Service in Alice Springs. They had become friends while nursing in Sydney. Kate has never married and has accepted the fact that it will never happen.
Katie, her daughter-in-law has left behind her country of birth to travel to her husband’s country and has yet to feel at home in this alien landscape.
Knowing what it feels like to live in the shadow of a mother-in-law and how isolated these stations are, Sybil decides to start a book-club knowing that Rita and Katie love to read as much as she does. To this group she invites Sallyanne, a young mum of three children who appears very shy and brow-beaten and lives in the township of Katherine. Sybil had met her at a CWA meeting. Another invited to join is Della, the young station hand working on the neighbouring Ghost River Station, on an adventure from across the seas in Texas.
These women’s lives soon become entwined and although the book-club meetings are few and far between and dictated by weather conditions and distance their friendship will transform all their lives.
The storyline involves love and loss for each of the book-club members but their support for each other remains constant.
Sophie Green’s love for the Northern Territory shines through in her novel in the descriptions of the landscape and life on the land in such harsh conditions. Equally her descriptions of Sydney around the Opera House, ranch life in Texas and the far away greenery of England paint a vivid picture for the reader to experience and learn from.
Sophie Green has written books, both fiction and non-fiction and has a wide variety of interests. She has a law degree, qualified as a yoga teacher and now works in publishing. She has joined a country music band and writes about country music on her blog, Jolene.
Within this novel, The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, Sophie Green has included a timeline of interesting happenings for the years 1978-1981 as well as the names of several books her club members were to read over this time. These books themselves tell the reader much about life in Australia and are written by well-known authors giving the readers another source to increase their knowledge about people and places.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would recommend it to others as it does not end when the last page is read since the reader is inspired to find out more about the other books mentioned and some of the news items alluded to in its pages.
by Sophie Green