2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · Greece · Guest Review · Ireland · life lit · Mrs R Review · romance · women's fiction

Double Feature Book Review: Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion

Title: Leaving Ocean Roadleaving ocean road small

Author:  Esther Campion

Published: July 25th 2017

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Pages: 368

Genres:  Fiction, Australian, Romance, Women’s Fiction

RRP: $29.99

Twenty years ago, Ellen left her beloved Ireland to make a new life in Australia. Now struggling to cope with the death of her much loved husband, Nick, Ellen finds her world turned upside down when an unexpected visitor lands on her doorstep. 

The arrival of Gerry Clancy, her first love from Ireland, may just be the catalyst that pulls Ellen out of her pit of grief, but it will also trigger a whole new set of complications for her and those she holds dear.

Mrs B’s review:

For those who like their novels with plenty of heart, look no further than Leaving Ocean Road by debut novelist Esther Campion. Campion’s writing style has been compared to the likes of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney and I can see this is warranted. There is an embracing style to Campion’s storytelling, which enabled me to enjoy Leaving Ocean Road very much.

Love, life, loss and hope define Esther Campion’s first novel, Leaving Ocean Road. It is the story of Ellen, a recent widow, who has lived in South Australia for twenty years, since she made the move from her home in Ireland, for a fresh beginning. Ellen married Nick soon after settling in Australia and together they lived happily in their small coastal based home. When Nick is killed in tragic and unexpected circumstances, Ellen goes to pieces. In the wake of Nick’s death, Ellen’s life is further complicated by the arrival of a visitor from Ireland. The appearance of Gerry Clancy sets in motion a chain of events. It encourages Ellen to break her cycle of grief, but it also kick starts the shock revelation of a deep seated secret that will impact heavily upon Gerry’s life.  With cross country links to Australia, Ireland and Greece, Leaving Ocean Road is a sincere story, brimming with life.

Leaving Ocean Road is a fantastic debut novel and it is one of those novels you just want to sit back and relax over, with a good brew. It makes for the perfect holiday read, for warm or cool climates. Readers will easily be touched by the life of leading character Ellen, through her process of loss, grief, reconnection, friendship and love.

When Ellen is first introduced to the reader she is in an understandable state of disarray. She recently lost her beloved husband Nick and since then, she has struggled with everyday life in general. When an important letter arrives from her homeland in Ireland, things take quite a drastic and much needed turn for Ellen. The imminent arrival of a man from her past, Gerry, sends Ellen in a spin. Though Gerry’s appearance, long buried memories and withheld secrets come to the surface. We watch on as Ellen makes new connections with Gerry and begins to see light at the end of the tunnel. In turn, the re-entry of Gerry in Ellen’s life has a downside, it causes friction between Ellen and her daughter Louise. Campion handles this side of the novel with a strong hand, making the reader a part of the tension and emotion of it all.

There is plenty of romance to distract the reader from the grief and loss side of this novel (which is handled with sensitivity and insight). There are two romantic side stories served up by Campion. The first revolves around the rekindled love between Gerry and Ellen. While the second love story explores the love life of Ellen’s daughter, Louise. Both romance situations are heartfelt, realistic and interesting. Campion does a good job of portraying the flaws, as well as the good qualities of her characters in their new respective relationships.

A highlight of this novel is the cross country travel that takes place. The book begins in South Australia, which has been the main character, Ellen’s home, for the last twenty years. The Port Lincoln area where Ellen resides, is painted with vivid detail. At so many points of the novel, I felt like I was standing there, with the wind in my hair and the sand in between my toes. The added inclusion of the whale sightings and the breathtaking coastline of this stunning part of Australia are presented beautifully by Esther Campion. These scenes are a credit to her descriptive style of writing. A fair chunk of the book’s action also takes place in Ireland, Ellen’s roots and Gerry’s home. I was reminded of how much I love the language and one-of-a-kind phrasing used by the Irish, it brought a smile to my face a number of times. In the latter section of the novel, the action makes to Santorini. These sections of the book allowed Campion to focus on memories, family roots and the importance of laying the rest loved ones in the grief process. I laughed and I shed a tear or two for Nick, as Ellen and their family said their goodbyes to Nick in his country of birth.

Leaving Ocean Road features a full and poignant narrative, it explores plenty of emotional turmoil and draws our attention to the situations that crop up in our lives that may test us, but ultimately make us stronger for the experience. Campion does a superb job of tying up all the loose ends in her novel, providing her audience with a moving ending. The closure the book offered was one that I did see coming but that was fine as I wanted this ending for Ellen and Gerry.

I do hope we hear much more from Esther Campion, a new writer in the field of heart-warming and positive women’s fiction. Esther Campion has certainly has made quite the impression on this reader.

Mrs R’s review:

Leaving Ocean Road is Australian author Esther Campion’s first novel. With a strong theme of mother-daughter relationships as well as what constitutes a family, I was very excited to read this after winning it. The book is largely set in South Australia. I felt somewhat let down with this as I didn’t get to visit Ireland and Greece through the various characters until about three quarters of the way through. This was too late for me. Another minor bug bear was the end of the chapters. I constantly felt like the chapters ended abruptly and I was left waiting for more.

Told in the third person, Esther’s book begins in Australia with newly widowed Ellen Constantinopoulos meeting her first love after 20 years. I felt a little lost because I was missing the background of how Ellen came to be. Who was her husband and what happened to him? While this information came out in later chapters it would have suited me to have it at the start as it was like I had just walked into the middle of a movie. Ellen herself was a likeable character with a feisty best friend, Tracey.  Ellen is the dark horse though because she had a secret that I admit I didn’t see coming. Louise is Ellen’s daughter and I wasn’t a fan of her initially. I realised on deeper reflection that it was because Louise reacted exactly like a teenager would when they discover their mother’s secret past. The rift this causes between the two isn’t solved neatly and quickly. It takes months of hard work and communication, as well as growing up on Louise’s part. In the end, I did appreciate the realism of Louise’s character. I also respected Ellen’s first love, Gerry. He is the perfect gentleman when he renters Ellen’s life and later deals with her revelation in a mature and thoughtful manner. With all three lives colliding, hard decisions will have to be made…..

Esther Campion’s first novel may not have been perfect (for me) but she is worth the read and one author to keep an eye on in the future!

Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion was published on July 25th by Hachette Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Leaving Ocean Road, Esther Campion, visit here.

*With thanks extended to Books With Heart for providing copies of this book for review purposes.





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