2017 Reviews · Australian · fiction

Double Feature Book Review: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

Title: The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Clubfairvale small

Author:  Sophie Green

Published: August 8th 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 432

Genres:  Fiction, Australian

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Books bring them together – but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in the Northern Territory of the 1970s by an exceptional new Australian author.

In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.

Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe’s designated successor but he has left the Territory – for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother’s place. But that doesn’t stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child. With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben’s English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.

Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick. Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.

If you loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul and The Thorn Birds you will devour this story of five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia’s Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.

Mrs B’s review:

It was a pure delight to be a part of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. From the first meeting of the club in 1978, through to the close in 1981, it was a road travelled touched with both sadness and joy. Sophie Green’s latest fictional tale is a wonderful testament to the outback and to a band of women linked together by their love of a good yarn.

In the far-reaching dusty outback plains of Fairvale station, near Katherine in the Territory, matriarch Sybil is looking for a way to surpass the isolation of her home and connect with other women. Sybil has a grand plan, to form a local book club. She enlists the help of her long time friend from nursing school Rita, who now works for the Royal Flying Doctors Service, out of Alice Springs. Sybil also invites her new daughter in law, Kate, who hails from Britain to join them. With Kate struggling to make the transition from life in a small English village to the expanse of the outback, the book club is the perfect vehicle for Kate to connect and make some new friends. Uniting the book club further is a lonely young mother of three Sallyanne and finally Della, a fearless Texan who has arrived to the local area in search of employment. Each of these five women face tests to their spirit in the years to come, as the ladies make their way through a varied collection of book club material. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club is a tribute to the power of friendship in isolated outback communities.

Books, friendship and the outback, what a perfect combination! I have to admit I was sold very early on with The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. This is a book with an eye-catching title and a heart-warming story inside to match. It is a story I wouldn’t both hesitate to recommend to those who are part of a book club, have been in a book club in the past or are interested in the activities of a book club. This story will take you right inside an endearing book collective and leave you with a smile on your face, along with a whole new set of friends.

I cherished the outback element of the sheer open space and the seclusion that goes with remote locales, such as Fairvale. Green competently expresses a strong sense of place in this novel. I felt every climate change and seasonal shift that occurred at Fairvale. In particular, the movement from the wet to the dry season was experienced to the fullest degree with the help of Green’s prose. This aspect of the book gave me a sturdy picture of the principal concerns of living in remote locations.

I wholly appreciated the way in which this novel is carefully constructed. It is a gentle unravelling of the events that take place in five different women’s lives, of two generations, from the years 1978 through to 1981. The book takes its time to build a picture of each character that enters the novel and the narrative shifts between each of these five protagonists. In the end, the reader is given a complete overview of each woman’s triumphs, tragedies and defining moments. The narrative is evenly spread across the group and I came away feeling a strong sense of affection between each and every one of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

The sense of place time period wise was a shining feature of this novel. Although I was born in the final year of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, it was great to be reminded of the world events and trends that occurred in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. It was a nice touch to begin each new year with the Fairvale ladies with a rundown of the significant happenings the defined the year. It was a fun history lesson of sorts! Green manages to convey an ideal sense of nostalgia in her latest novel.

By far, I relished the book components in The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. The opening book that kick-starts the women’s togetherness, The Thorn Birds, was the perfect choice. This quintessential outback novel seemed to work to bond the women together through their shared experience of living and working in the outback. Following on from The Thorn Birds, Green incorporates a body of fine Australian literature, along with some children’s book greats and popular novels of the era in which this book is set. The book club list, kindly provided by the author at the back of the novel, encouraged me to seek out some new titles and re-read some classics.

The sense of realism, the endearing character set and the unconditional affinity this book club develops is second to none. There are plenty of tests thrown at this strong band of women from marriage breakdown, infertility, alcoholism, inter racial relationships, homesickness, medical tragedies, death and mother nature’s strong hand,. However, the Fairvale ladies rise above it all and show us what they are made of. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club is a ripper yarn from an author I have come to love the work of, thanks Sophie Green!

Mrs R’s review:

When I first came across The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club I knew I had to buy it. Sophie Green’s tenth novel was a lovely welcome back to the Northern Territory for me, despite struggling with the first chapter, as I had lived there for four years. While I didn’t live there in the time the book was set, 1978-1981, I did experience the warmth of the people and the extraordinary climate of Darwin when I was there in early 2000.

The book focuses on five it’s club members; Sybil, Kate, Della, Sallyanne and Rita. I felt a deep, personal connection with Rita’s character. I too was born in Sydney and went back home myself just like Rita. I admired Rita for trusting herself and following her heart because at the end of the day she was a city girl. What was particularly special about the members of this book club was that every woman had her own voice and unique personality with ordinary problems that life brings. These were women I had never come across in fiction before yet they all felt like someone I could be friends with. I could talk to Sybil about the problems with her son, Rita, Della and Kate living in uncharted territory and Sallyanne, the highs and lows of being married.

While there was only five book club members, I felt that Sophie Green made the Northern Territory’s the sixth member. She beautifully describes the scenery “The light of the dry season was pallid at dawn and dusk, and during the wet the sky was so often heavy with cloud…..”. Sophie honestly yet passionately describes the hardships of living on the land along with the joys it can bring. Everything that happens was brought back to the cycle of nature.

The downfall of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club for me was the book club itself. Sybil brings them altogether through book club so they could become friends and support each other. This allowed for many themes to be explored such as mother-son relationships, domestic abuse, home sickness and racial prejudice. Yet they only meet a few times during the three years the book is set. When the club did bring them together, they had some wonderful insight on reading that I found myself agreeing with “How we find out more from books then life sometimes” is a perfect summary from Kate as is “….she had learnt to be a woman, wife and parent” from Sybil. I wanted to read more about the books and the ensuing discussions.

Fingers crossed that this is the start of a fantastic series with old and new members coming back!

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green was published on August 8th 2017 by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, Sophie Green, visit here.






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