This is an interesting novel: stylistically quite modern and vintage 1950s in tone. It portrays a really interesting slice of life at a time when women stayed at home and devotedly followed their husbands wherever they went. In this case, the young heroine, Charlotte is an educated young English woman who falls in love with Henry, a visiting young scholar boarding with her family. Henry is somewhat lost in England; part Indian part English, he doesn’t feel comfortable with stuffy English life.
The newly married couple find themselves living in a mouldy, cold, university house with their first baby; the lure of faraway lands is appealing to Henry but Charlotte prefers her security and the only land she knows. Henry’s persistence and the ever-present Australian brochure finally wins. Henry secures a tenured university teaching position, and they board the ship to unknown lands. The promised sun and climate are reliable. The garden wildlife terrorises Charlotte and the judgemental atmosphere (they were not expecting a brown skinned Henry) at the university intimidates Henry.
Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World is a perfectly described slice of life and society. Both of the key characters are flawed and make some crazy decisions. Some are obvious, others not so. The book keeps your attention right to the end. I really enjoyed this example of vintage life and it reminds me about how much modern women (and men) have to be thankful for. And how the big things in life have not changed – love, family, children, heritage.