Title: Sixty Summers
Author: Amanda Hampson
Published: May 1st 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Life is too short for compromise …
When Maggie, Fran and Rose met in their youth, they had dreams and ambitions. Forty years later, the three friends are turning sixty, each of them restless and disenchanted with their lives.
Fran works in a second-hand bookshop. Her lover, one of a long line of disappointing men, is drifting away and her future is uncertain.
Maggie married into a volatile family. Her beautiful, indulged twin daughters are causing havoc and her elderly mother-in-law has moved in and is taking charge.
Rose has been an off-sider for her hopelessly vague but academically brilliant husband and their two sons. Time is running out to find and fulfil her own ambitions.
In an attempt to recapture the sense of freedom and purpose they once possessed, they decide to retrace the steps of their 1978 backpacking trip through Europe and set off an odyssey that will test their friendship, challenge their beliefs and redefine the third age of their lives.
‘It’s not just about the places and memories. It’s about the three of us making that journey together again, rediscovering ourselves.’
Sixty Summers, the title has a beautiful ring to it, along with a meaningful message, life is too short for compromise. I have to agree completely! Sixty Summers is a travel infused novel, full of valuable life lessons, along with a stunning exploration into the many shades of an enduring female friendship circle. I inhaled this novel over the course of a weekend, the pages seemed to turn themselves as I completely surrendered myself to the lives of Maggie, Fran and Rose.
Friends since they were young women with their whole lives ahead of them, Maggie, Fran and Rose have travelled, dreamed and aspired together. Forty years since their first trek across the corners of the world, the trio are looking down the barrel at celebrating their sixtieth birthdays. We come to learn that each is somewhat dissatisfied with the direction of their life. The three friends decide to seize the day and together they make plans to retrace the steps of their youth. Hoping to capture the essence of their carefree days as young women, the trio follow the same path they travelled in 1978, during their backpacking trip across Europe. The women are now older, wiser, but less satisfied with their lives and this trip proves to be a big wake up call. The trip does not turn out how they had planned, but it is a welcome opportunity to recoup and think of a way forward.
This marks the third novel I have read by author Amanda Hampson. I feel like Amanda Hampson has really found her niche, her books are wonderful travel odes, set beyond our shores, exploring the idea of travel as an impetus for life changes. In the case of Sixty Summers, Hampson takes a solid friendship between three friends, she issues them with the ultimate test to their relationship with one another and their view of themselves. This is life lit with a difference and I really enjoyed the challenge Hampson issues her character set.
There is a wonderful cosmopolitan feel to Sixty Summers. It inspires the reader to pack their suitcase, throw caution into the wind, get right out there and explore the world! If only we didn’t have all those life responsibilities! For those who are in the third chapter of their lives, the empty nesters and the baby boomers, the three women in this book and their connected experiences will draw plenty of appeal, as well as understanding. Amanda Hampson does an excellent job of drawing our attention to the direct feelings experienced by those aged over sixty. The regret, the life choices and the yearning for a different life. In Maggie, Fran and Rose’s case there was a strong desire to recapture the carefree attitude and wanderlust of youth. I did admire how these women were able to leave their current existence and trek across the world, in search of their lost past.
Within a strong exploration of the different women, their personalities and life issues that they must contend with both individually and as a set, Sixty Summers is an involving novel that connects directly to the reader. I found pieces of all three women reflected in those around me. The highly relative nature of the characters is thanks to the work of author Amanda Hampson, who has strived to deliver a cast of characters that are entertaining, honest and likeable. I loved how these women were tested to their very limits, but they managed to hold each other up and cross that bridge! With some very important themes thrown in the mix, this is the ultimate female road trip story.
I must mention how much I absolutely adored the travel sequences in Sixty Summers before I wrap up this review. My heart belongs to France and Amanda Hampson made me one delighted reader with all the picturesque references of my happy place. There are also some stunning scenes set in a number of other European locales that were both very familiar and unfamiliar to me. Here is a touch of one of the observations made by the character of Rose during the Paris leg of the journey.
‘The cool snap was unfortunate but Paris was still Paris. Rose loved its grand and generous buildings and narrow cobblestone streets, and thrilled at the sheer ambition of its Napoleonic boulevards. To see the thread of lights swooping up the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and the golden light pouring through the arch at sunset made her heart flutter.’
On that stellar parting note, Sixty Summers is a book that I hold in high regard, it should be enjoyed, and shared with a wide variety of readers. There are plenty of high talking points in this novel, which are highlighted in the ‘Book Club Discussion’ segment at the close of the novel. Pass this one on to your close friends, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, colleagues and the like. Sixty Summers will encourage the reader to find a new opening in their life, may it be a passion for travel, a new relationship, to take up a different hobby, or to make a career change. Sixty Summers offers plenty of mental nourishment.
Sixty Summers by Amanda Hampson was published on May 1st 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Sixty Summers, Amanda Hampson visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Sixty Summers is book #63 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge