This is a blast of a book. Three Australian women who’ve been friends for over forty years are about to hit sixty. Many years ago in London they did the youthful Kombi through Europe thing. Maggie and Rose came back to make lives in Sydney but Fran stayed in London. Once a year Rose and Maggie have dinner and Skype Fran. Their lives aren’t going well. Maggie in particular is super stressed: she’s the hyper-competent financial controller for her Greek husband’s family construction business, critical Yia Yia seems determined to move in with them, her twin daughters are hopelessly shallow, self-absorbed, critical of Maggie but also needy, and one of them - recently married - has gone ballistic over a sex tape her gormless husband has uploaded. Turns out Maggie has a few other problems as well. And oh yeah - they’re Greek. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Feisty Rose is married to useless needy nerd Peter who is nevertheless a brilliant lecturer in 20thC history. For all his oral brilliance Peter has a writing disability and for many years Rose has been his unpaid ghost and general Girl Friday while also working as a teacher of English as a second language. She finds his ponderousness profoundly irritating. He’s about to retire and be underfoot all day. (Oh no!) Rose too has some interesting other things going on in her life. In London, Fran has a low wage job in a secondhand (Antiquarian!) book store. Her latest lover is a boring, small-minded insurance assessor who can’t make up his mind if he prefers Fran or his wife, who has decided to live in Spain. Of course, prompted by Rose, the three women try to recapture their youthful zest and freedom with a repeat version of the carefree trip of their youth. It’s very nearly a disaster and Amanda Hampson doesn’t pull her punches when it comes to showing how three stressed people can get on each other’s nerves. What saves them is their genuine love and tolerance for each other, a lot of wry wit and the fact that circumstances force them to live with little money and no phones. And spirited singing. Things get a lot better on Corfu.
Their wit, and the author’s, lead to several laugh out loud moments. These women are interesting! They’re not old fogeys (think hygge) but they do have to make some serious decisions about how they want their lives to be; about what is and is not acceptable to them now they have faced the fact that their lives didn’t pan out as gloriously as their young selves expected. This is feminism in action and no-one’s saying it’s easy. Absolutely riveting. Hugely enjoyable. Could do with a less chicklitty cover.
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