I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this novel. I had previously tried reading it several times but never got past page 40 something. I initially found it hard to get my head around who the three women were, and which children and husbands went with them and I didn’t really connect with any of them to start with. I put this forward as one of my choices for my book club to read in an attempt to get at least one backlist book off of my TBR list (this has been on my shelf for nearly 2 years) and this was the one chosen, I’ll be interested to see what the other women thought. Taking this down the beach I was determined to give it a final shot and I am so glad I did because the fourth time saw me completely change my mind about this book.
After getting past that pesky page 40 something, I started to get my head around who was who and slowly began to, if not like, at least feel some understanding for each of the women.
Set in the 70s, Libby, Carol and Anna seem to have nothing in common other than their children are friends (sort of). They barely know each other at the start of the book, but an ABBA concert and one life-changing decision by Carol to leave her abusive husband sets in motion big changes for all three women and their families as both Libby and Anna are motivated to leave their own unhappy/unfulfilled marriages.
I grew to care about each of these women and their husbands, except for Carol’s husband, he was beyond any sort of redemption even by the end of the book. Each woman and their respective husband are forced to take a good look at their lives, who they are, what they want and what they need to be happy.
The 70s were certainly a different time to be a woman, a wife or a gay man and some of these differences made me very sympathetic to those they affected. For instance, Carol’s husband is able to cancel her passport so she can’t leave the country and she is unable to get a new one without his say-so, nor can she open a bank account or get a loan in her name without his signature. I mean seriously, this was the 70s, not the 1800s, it amazes me how little autonomy women had back then. And don’t get me started on male homosexuality being illegal until South Australia changed its laws in 1975 with other states following after. It wasn’t until 1994 it became a Commonwealth law. It is mind-boggling to me how long it is still taking for society to change its thinking on so many different aspects.
The children in the story play an important role in helping the women bond, but also in making them realise things about themselves and each child as an individual. While initially these women and girls (and one boy) are thrown together and seem to thrive in their new environment, there are many things to consider as time passes and they all have to deal with the fallout of their choices and their personalities and some cracks appear. They went from near strangers to living in a sharehouse in days and while the women created strong supportive and lasting friendships from this shared experience, the children (and their parents) learned that not everyone has to get along and like each other.
I really appreciated how these three women stepped up and supported each other and their children, each learned to roll with their strengths and ask for help with things they didn’t do well. They learned to look past the surface of what a person shows the world and understand each other’s journey so far while encouraging each other in their journeys forward. Communication was tantamount to making this new way of life work and also in holding onto the newly formed friendships. I liked seeing how Libby, Carol and Anna each took their new freedom from their marriage down different paths and how they dealt with the differences between them as they came up.
Each person involved in these three relationships had flaws, likeable and unlikeable character traits and good and bad decision-making skills, this kept things very real and allowed for growth on so many levels. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for any of them, as individuals and as a collective. And as with how it all started with one thing as the catalyst, it all starts to fall apart the same way.
I was happy with the ending for each woman and the choices they made for their futures, and the possibilities that lie ahead for them all.