This is the first book to mark off of my backlist reads for 2023, I wish I’d read it back when I got it because it was so good that it’s kept me up late reading it for the past few nights.
All About Ella does what Meredith Appleyard is so good at and gives us characters we grow to love, people, places and circumstances we can relate to and shows how complicated relationships can be.
Ella was an incredibly strong character, from the moment I was introduced to her I knew I was going to love her. I was angry for the way her family treated her, especially her awful daughter-in-law, what a piece of work she was, I was hoping karma would throw something terrible at her, but alas…
As I learned more about Ella and her late husband Sam’s life and the way he treated her and the children, I was awed by Ella’s way of looking at things, I liked that she was able to look back and see how things weren’t so great, but still, be positive about it all too. Sometimes it isn’t until we lose someone that we really take a look at who they were.
All of Ella’s children were extremely selfish individuals whose pretence at looking out for Ella was only driven by their own desire for her money. I’m sure this happens a lot more in real life than we can imagine, why shouldn’t older people make their own choices and spend their money the way they wish, they shouldn’t need to put their life on hold just so as their children will have something to inherit.
Meredith does a wonderful job of describing the town of Cutlers Bay, I’ve only been to Streaky Bay which is further along the coast than where Cutlers Bay is supposed to be based (I think), but I could imagine myself there, I could imagine the house that Ella fell in love with, I think I would like it there myself. I loved meeting the whole cast of characters from Cutlers Bay who rounded out the small-town feel beautifully.
What Ella finds when she runs away from her family is more than she could have imagined, she finds herself, she says something in the book about this and I felt for Ella, that it had taken her until she was 70 and had lost her husband to really find out who she was and how much she was capable of. Sam had pretty much ruled her life from the moment they got married and then her children had tried to do the same, running away saved her and allowed her to finally live life on her own terms.
Angie was another wonderful character that I grew to love, I felt a lot of compassion for her nomadic way of life, one she’d chosen not so much because she liked to travel and keep moving but because she was afraid to let herself get close to other people. Her family life was dysfunctional at best and her mother was certainly not the mother she (or anyone) needed. At 40 she knows nothing but this way of life, but meeting Ella turns her life on its head and starts her on her own journey of discovery.
Zach came a long way from the taciturn police officer who first met Ella and Angie and wanted them both to leave his town ASAP. Ella really was the catalyst for lots of changes in Angie and Zach, and even in Claire who had become lonely in her older age living by herself.
One of the things that Ella and Angie learn is that family doesn’t need to be blood-related and that sometimes our found families can be more important to us than those we call relatives. This was a beautifully written story about connecting with others and finding the things that make up happy in life and standing our ground against the people who say we can’t have them.
Thank you to Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.