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The Accidental Tour Guide – Adventures in life and death by Mary Moody

This book was totally unexpected, though I would not have been so surprised (and I admit delighted) by it, had I read the sub-title.


I suppose it is the death part of the life and death mentioned there which holds the clue. And indeed, the author gets right down to that in the prologue when she writes about waking beside her newly-dead husband.


Don’t be put off. This is a charming autobiography and full of unexpected joy as Moody weaves in the life – as well as the death - of her famous husband, acclaimed Australian film producer David Hannay.


New Zealand born Hannay was a force in Australian film-making from the late1960s, working on more than 50 major projects until his death in 2014. He was newly separated from his pregnant Kiwi wife, when he met Moody. She was a young journalist hoping to break into television, and they went on to have a wonderful amalgamated family and mostly happy 47-year-marriage.


Moody’s own big break was when she was accepted as a writer for the Australian Women’s Weekly, although she was later to become best known for her expertise in gardening which grew from her hobby. She has written dozens of books on the subject and eventually became a leading figure on screen, as well as an international tour leader for other keen gardeners and horticulturalists.


But is the life she shared with Hannay and their burgeoning family at their sprawling lifestyle block which is the focus of the book. Of course, there are glimpses of her travels, as well – as these became increasingly important, but the overall subject of the book is on the years from Hannay’s cancer diagnosis until his death.


It does not matter if you have not followed their careers, this story is entirely relatable. I was charmed and awed and encouraged by this tender story which shows that death does not have to be final.


Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Simon and Shuster, $39.99

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