Title: Stella and Margie
Author: Glenna Thomson
Published: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 stars
A beautiful novel about two women – a generation apart – thrown together by circumstance, who slowly come to love and understand one another.
Stella and her mother-in-law Margie are two very different women.
Stella is kind, compassionate and just a little chaotic. Margie is prickly, demanding and a stickler for convention. Stella has exciting dreams for the future. Margie has only bitter memories of the past.
When Margie needs help recovering from a major operation, Stella offers her a place to stay. With no other options, Margie returns to the family farm where for decades, until Stella’s arrival, she was the one in charge.
Margie has never made life easy for her daughter-in-law, and that’s not going to change now she’s been made a guest in her former home.
But as the dry summer turns to a beautiful autumn, the two women gradually form an unlikely bond, as the ambitions, secrets, and tragedies that have shaped their lives are slowly uncovered…
Stella and Margie, Australian novelist Glenna Thomson’s second novel, is a wonderful addition to the modern Australian fiction genre. It features two unforgettable heroines, a touching friendship that is born out of hardship, all set against a rich Australian country setting. When I observed well known Australian figure Ita Buttrose endorsed the stunning front cover of this book, I knew I was in for a treat.
Stella and Margie is the heart warming story of two very different women from contrasting generations. Stella is a busy mother of two and a farmer’s wife, balancing her home duties with her interest in theatre. Margie on the other hand, is an eighty year old woman, who is very much stuck in her ways and is not the easiest person to live with. When Margie has a fall and is sent for a major operation to repair her hip, Stella, Margie’s daughter in law, insists Margie comes to stay with her. With all other care options exhausted, Margie reluctantly returns to her old family farm, which now belongs to her son Ross, his wife Stella and their two daughters. Margie grapples with being the outsider. She was once the matriarch of this thriving farm house. All Margie sees when she comes to stay as a guest in her old home is a lack of care. It riles her and she becomes quite the unwelcome guest. Little by little, Margie begins to realise the only person who truly cares about her well being is the one person she detests, Stella. Eventually, an unlikely union forms between Stella and Margie. This bond signals the revelation of aspirations, secrets and moments of loss which have come to influence these two remarkable women’s lives.
In early 2017, I recall being impressed by Glenna Thomason’s debut novel, Blueberry. Thomson has electrified me once again with her second novel and a poignant one at that, Stella and Margie. What I loved most of all about this novel is the unexpected friendship that flourishes between two completely different women.
Once again, I was fully immersed in the picturesque and authentic country based setting of Glenna Thomson’s novel. In Stella and Margie, the reader is transported to Maryhill, a rural farm located just outside Benalla, in the north east high country of Victoria. Thomson’s prose setting wise is touched with a vivid quality that promotes the natural beauty of this region. I exalted in the many rich descriptions of the local fauna that can be found in this picturesque part of Australia. All my senses were ignited as Maryhill and the surrounding area was explained by Thomson. A high point in Stella and Margie is everyday the farming sections of the novel, clearly drawn from the author’s own personal experiences living and working on the land.
Glenna Thomson’s characterisation seems to be going from strength to strength. In her second novel, Thomson demonstrates her ability to bring her characters before the reader’s eyes, in a very touching form. I was soon able to conjure up a clear image of both leads, Stella and Margie, through Thomson’s expert storytelling abilities. Thomson has a great handle on her leads, as well as supporting characters such as Ross, Chester and younger characters Isabel and Jemima. Through the progression of the novel, Thomson takes us through the current lives, hopes, fears, flaws, mistakes, difficulties and memories of the past that define this appealing character set. Margie was the highlight of the novel in terms of character exploration. From her initial introduction as a stoic and cantankerous woman, Margie eventually lets her guard down to Stella. The interesting result is the revelation of secrets Margie has held close to her chest for so many years, which sheds some light on the person she has become. I felt the overall voyage we undertake with the cast of Stella and Margie is quite a moving and touching one.
Relationships and friendships are the focal point of Stella and Margie. Initially, Margie has little thought for Stella, having nothing positive to say. As the novel progresses, Margie comes to the realisation that Stella is her pillar and the one person who genuinely cares for her welfare. I loved the interplay between these characters, it was such a joy to read.
There are a number of other themes that come into play in this novel that is explored extremely well by Thomson. From aged care, medical treatment of the elderly, loss of independence, grief, marital issues, parenting, adultery, domestic abuse and family dynamics. However, the overall focus of the book really is on the importance of friendship to life, which is what I garnered from reading of this touching novel.
I read this novel in a sitting, one warm summer’s day. I am thankful to the author of Stella and Margie, Glenna Thomson, for opening my eyes to an unconventional female friendship that blossoms between her lead heroines of her second novel. I am confident that Stella and Margie is the kind of story that will stay by my side. Through the book, I was reminded of the importance of the restorative power of friendships and how they know no bounds in terms of age or circumstance. Stella and Margie is another stellar read from Glenna Thomson, an author who is now high on my watch list.
Stella and Margie by Glenna Thomson is published on January 2nd 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Stella and Margie, Glenna Thomson, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.