The Sun in Her Eyes is a book for lazy summer days in the sun when some light-hearted Chicklit is called for. The author, Paige Toon, is a skilled writer that tells a beautiful story with lots of feeling.
When her father has a stroke, Amber hurriedly heads home to Adelaide, South Australia, to be with him. There, she meets up with old friends, including winemaker, Ethan, and her first love. Far from her home and her husband, Ned, in London, old feelings resurface and Amber starts to doubt the life she was so sure she wanted.
Meanwhile, Amber’s past is about to come back into her life in a far deeper way. Amber was three when her mother was killed in a car crash. Now, all these years later, Doris, the first person on the scene, is doing everything she can to track her down and pass on Amber’s mother’s last words.
This book was my introduction to author Paige Toon and based on all the reviews of her previous books, I couldn’t wait to add her name to my ever-growing list of must-read authors. Honestly, I was a little disappointed, and all due to the protagonist, Amber. I tried to like her, I really did, but I struggled to connect with her and felt at odds about her choices. Ned and Ethan were portrayed well by the author, and it was easy to get caught up in the charm and excitement of Ethan compared to the steady and comfortable Ned, allowing me to empathise with Amber’s predicament. It was also heart-warming to recognise that her perfect match was just that because of their shared life together, the stuff that comes after the honeymoon phase.
Amber’s relationship with her father is beautifully depicted and the warmth of it almost tangible. Their close and very special bond, made more so because of the loss of Amber’s mother when she was so young, shines through. It is understandable, then, that there are some interesting dynamics between her and her stepmother. And, the struggles her father has to go through as he recovers from his stroke broke my heart they were so vivid.
The side story involving Doris’s search for the girl in the car adds an interesting and emotional dimension to the story. That Doris has carried this message with her all these years is poignant. I would have liked to explore this subplot a bit more. The event has shaped the whole of Amber’s life and delving into it deeper would have, perhaps, highlighted more layers of Amber’s character that, in turn, might’ve given me the connection with her I craved. Nevertheless, I found myself wishing for her demons to be laid to rest and for her to find peace and happiness.
What Toon does with aplomb is capture the summery feel of South Australia, made more stark in contrast to Amber’s life in London. She is clearly a skilled writer and her ability to put the warmth of the sunshine and smell of the dry earth on the page is wonderful.
All in all, this is an easy read about love, family, and letting go. For anyone in need of a bit of an escape, especially to warmer climes, let this book transport you to the summer haze and vineyards of Australia. I look forward to uncovering Toon’s previous treasures and finding that little spark that was not quite there this time.