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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Sleepless in Stringybark Bay by Susan Duncan

This is a charming book. It says so on the cover, and it may be unimaginative of me to repeat it. But the fact is: it’s true. It is both ‘charming and irresistible’ as British writer and general practitioner, Joanna Nell, says. Although, having read this recommendation, I sat down to read the book, anticipating a delightful escape from reality; and then there was an awful moment on the first page when I thought it was not to be.

Anyone who writes will know how difficult it is to come up with names which are credible, and which resonate with the reader. The name Ettie Brookbank, which appears in the first line of the opening page, was not one with which I identified. But this thought was soon far behind me as I was quickly swept along like a piece of flotsam on the outgoing tide into the lives of the many wonderful characters who inhabit Stringybark Bay.

I loved this book. It was the perfect antidote to a few busy days of feeling slightly off-colour. The scene was set for a perfect, sunny, Sunday with the French doors flung wide open while I sat in welcome silence, in an all-too-rare patch of sun, just reading.

Ah, bliss. I finished the book by late afternoon and immediately missed the characters and the beautiful, sleepy, forgiving and accepting nature of the community they inhabited. I was reminded of Great Barrier Island where, like the majority of people in this book, I lived with water access only. As you can imagine, it takes an unusual type of person to live in an isolated place, but this becomes even more extreme when their lives on any day are dictated to by weather conditions beyond their control. People who submit to this lifestyle of living cheek by jowl with the tempests of the natural world are usually strongly defined – if imperfect - characters. As are the characters of this book, which the author brings to life gloriously in all of their dimensions and with all of their frailties.

There were times when the names of people and things still pulled me up, but that was insignificant when compared to the irresistible tug of the storyline as a whole. I was completely reeled in by this whodunit, with its charming backstory, unforgettable characters and underlying romance. It had all of the elements of a wonderful yarn, and succeeded gloriously in delivering it to this now happy, relaxed, well-rested and wonderfully-entertained reader.

If you have a sunny Sunday to spare, I highly recommend Sleepless in Stringybark Bay as a companion to it.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Allen & Unwin


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