#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · crime · mystery · suspense · thriller

#Book Bingo 2019 Round 3: ‘Book set in the Australian mountains’ – The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

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Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries!  To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.

Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist in a devilishly funny new novel from the acclaimed the bus on thursday smallfilmmaker, screenwriter and author of Rush Oh!

That’s when I literally had thoughts of becoming a nun, because I thought, Well, I’m never going to have sex again. If I become a nun, I would at least have somewhere to live.

It wasn’t just the bad break-up that caused Eleanor’s life to unravel. It was the cancer. And the demons that came with it.

Freshly single and thoroughly traumatised from the ordeals of breast cancer, Eleanor Mellett starts a new job as a teacher in a remote mountain hamlet. It’s certainly peaceful enough, almost too peaceful. But what’s become of the previous teacher, the saintly Miss Barker, who has disappeared abruptly under mysterious circumstances? And what’s with all those locks on the door? And what the hell is that bus doing idling outside her house late, late at night?

Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist in Twin Peaks. Darkly funny, deeply unsettling and surprisingly poignant, Shirley Barrett’s The Bus on Thursday is a strange and wild ride for all fans of Helen Fielding, Maria Semple, David Lynch and Stephen King.


The Bus on Thursday is a book that takes the cake for the most obscure and confusing book I have read. For this reason it really did get under my skin, baffling me beyond words and thinking. I’m sure it’s strange and hypnotic effect will ensure that I won’t forget my experience of reading this unusual book in a hurry. Described in the promotional material I received with this review book from the publisher, Allen & Unwin, as ‘Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist in Twin Peaks’, The Bus on Thursday is quite the genre mash-up.

The Bus on Thursday introduces main cast member Eleanor Mellet. Eleanor’s life has recently been thrown into disarray. She is diagnosed with cancer, alongside suffering from the breakup of her long term relationship and her best friend has mutated into a bridezilla, from hell! Unable to nurse her sorrows with her handsome doctor or family, Eleanor retreats. She takes a teaching post in a remote mountain town, which isn’t exactly soul cleansing!

I do not honestly know where to begin with my review for The Bus on Thursday, it was such a bizarre and quirky yarn. I kid you not, my head is still swirling! It is hard to categorise this novel, it is a sort coming of age story, a small town romance, a dark comedy, a mystery and a horror book – all  in one package! There were times where I really enjoyed this book, especially the writing, it was original and incredibly out there! However, there were moments when I felt out of the loop and I was ultimately baffled by Eleanor and the things that happened to her. Unsettling and bewildering would be the best words to describe The Bus on Thursday.

Eleanor Mellet is a colourful lead, I’m still sitting on the fence as to whether or not I liked her. I did feel sorry for her. Eleanor’s cancer diagnosis is gut wrenching and I truly felt awful for her. Barrett outlines her cancer journey well and it was almost refreshing to read this very offbeat take on Eleanor’s health. Eleanor’s life is quite the train wreck, so she made me thankful for my own relatively easy life in comparison. Eleanor’s disappointments, the way others treat her and her embarrassing bungles makes for some interesting , if albeit cringe worthy reading. Barrett’s fine character composition of Eleanor is one of the book’s highlights. The same can be said for the supporting character set, I found each to be well-rounded, adding extra input to the unfolding narrative.

I don’t generally do too well with dark comedy novels, but I gave this one a chance. Sometimes I think I got the dark humour touches, other times I think I was way off the mark. There is a real mixture of humour in this book, from the downright absurd (a dead hand making its presence known) through to genuinely laugh out loud funny moments. I found these moments were mostly featured in the first half of the book.

‘I had the mammogram first. I had several mammograms because they couldn’t get to it – it was in a really awkward spot. Also apparently I wasn’t relaxed enough. My not being relaxed enough while they flattened my breast like a hamburger patty and blasted it with radiation was causing them problems.’

The second half of The Bus on Thursday is where things take a turn for the weird, wild and the wacky! The deeper Eleanor becomes involved in her new life in the mountain town of Talbingo, the more absurd things get. The mystery is heightened, and Eleanor’s state of mind falters. This is where Eleanor truly becomes an unreliable narrator and we are unsure as to whether or not we can trust her. I know as a reader of this book, it was hard to place my trust in Eleanor, but I felt I had no choice but to surrender to her ramblings, as she is the only narrator of this book. The book is structured around her blog entries, which was an effective mode of telling this story. I know I doubted Eleanor, and I actually got pretty angry with the acts she committed as a teacher (I am a teacher too), it seemed absolutely outrageous!

An area where the The Bus on Thursday truly succeeds is in the atmosphere and setting. I loved the Australian mountain based locale and the small town setting of Talbingo is depicted well. Barrett allows us to fully experience the feelings that come with living and working in a community where everyone knows each other’s business, they are basically living in each other’s hip pockets.

‘Okay so I get here after this six-hour drive, and the last thirty minutes were like the opening titles in The Shining except no snow, just kangaroos and lakes and rivers and mountains and the sun getting low and flaring through the window screen  -just so exhilaratingly beautiful.’

You get the picture. Beautiful and evocative descriptions of the small Australian mountain town of Talbingo, where The Bus on Thursday is set.

There is omnipresence that goes with this book. It is unsettling and Barrett builds up the suspense in this area well. The symbolism of the shadowy and strange bus that the main character of Eleanor encounters really sent me off kilter. This bus has a prominent part in the final turn of the events, which had me up in arms frankly! I would love to hear what others thought of the open ending!

The Bus on Thursday is a sketchy, cryptic, and offbeat tale from Shirley Barrett. I am intrigued enough by Barrett’s writing style to explore her previous work. This one is for readers with an innate sense of curiosity and a willingness to embrace the wild side of life.

*** 3.5 stars

The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett was published on 18th September 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Bus on Thursday, Shirley Barrett, visit here. 

*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

The Bus on Thursday is book #12 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge 




4 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2019 Round 3: ‘Book set in the Australian mountains’ – The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

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