#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · contemporary fiction · new release · women's fiction

New Release Book Review: The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme

Title: The Sunrise Girlthe sunrise girl cover image small

Author: Lisa Wolstenholme

Published: December 12th 2019

Publisher: Making Magic Happen Press

Pages: 416

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $26.99

Ever since Joe Morris died, Lucy wakes up at sunrise, cocooned in guilt and barely existing. Two years on, and frustrated by Lucy’s hum-drum existence, best friend Em drags her out on a birthday celebration, catapulting Lucy back into a lifestyle she’d long since left behind. A series of one-night-stands brings Lucy much-needed escape, but it all comes crashing down when the past comes back to haunt her. Lucy’s head is a mess, and she knows she needs help, but just as she’s starting to make some headway, Em convinces her a holiday to the party island of Ibiza is all the respite she needs. Falling back into her former party-girl ways, Lucy soon realises that Em is right. But is Ibiza just a smokescreen? Fuelled by a passionate encounter, and seduced by the island’s hedonistic pull, Lucy makes the bold decision to return. But when her carefully constructed boundaries become blurred, old habits resurface and she plots her escape. But Lucy’s past is about to bite again, only this time, there’s nowhere to hide. Can she face her demons and figure out what she wants, or will Lucy forever be the sunrise girl?


Lisa Wolstenholme’s first full length feature novel, The Sunrise Girl, is a women’s fiction and life lit title, with a splash of romance. It follows Lucy, a thirty something woman, shattered by the guilt and loss of her husband in tragic circumstances. The Sunrise Girl is a moving and enlightening journey into the process of grief, recovery and letting go.

When Lucy’s husband Joe dies, she is consumed by immense grief and blame. She is unable to let go, or move on. Over two years after Joe’s passing, Lucy struggles to find any meaning or purpose in her life. In a desperate search to feel something, Lucy accompanies her best friend Em on a night out, which ignites her passion for partying. This follows a series of one night stands, which also do not give Lucy anything other than pure escapism. The past continues to haunt Lucy and just when she decides enough is enough, Em asks her to tag along on a holiday to Ibiza. At the clubbing capital of the world, Lucy laps up the hedonistic lifestyle, but she realises this is just a scapegoat for her real problems. However, when an opportunity arises for a long term stay at Ibiza, Lucy cannot resist. The island makes her feel good, more alive than ever, and she cannot resist it charms. But Lucy cannot hide from her past, not matter how hard she tries to keep it buried.

The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme is a 2019 Making Magic Happen Press publication. It is an affective novel, that charts the emotional journey of a thirty year old woman, dealing with the loss of her husband. The Sunrise Girl is a book that I would shelve in the life lit and contemporary women’s fiction categories. This novel presents a moving tale of the grief process.

Lisa Wolstenholme begins her book with an opening chapter which is titled, ‘The Fight of the Century’. This hard hitting introduction is very confronting. It immediately works to draw the reader in. Each chapter in The Sunrise Girl is headed by the day, date and chapter title, which links to the overarching story. This format was helpful in guiding me through Lucy’s emotional sojourn.

I must confess that I found Lucy very hard to like. I did pity her, but she did irritate me. I found it hard to connect to Lucy’s immaturity at many points of the novel. Lucy’s lack of communication skills also bothered me and I didn’t welcome her coping strategies at all. However, I am sure Lucy will strike a chord with readers who may have been touched by grief, or they know of someone who has behaved in this way following a shock loss. Despite the fact that I disliked Lucy, I felt that Wolstenholme captured her well on the pages of this novel. The same seemed to go for Em, I also disliked her and I didn’t think she was the right influence, or friend Lucy needed during her time of grief. However, I did feel that Wolstenholme did a good job of capturing the flaws and traits of this supporting character very well. This on point characterisation applies to Lucy’s husband, lovers, therapist, family members and work colleagues

Setting wise, The Sunrise Girl crosses from the UK, to the island of Ibiza. I haven’t set foot on this party destination, but thanks to Wolstenholme’s visual style of writing, I was able to feel the sand between my toes, hear the pulsating dance music, taste flowing alcohol and kick back my heels. Wolstenholme captures the mood of this party capital very well. Em and Lucy’s behaviour both in the UK and during their holiday break in Ibiza reminded me of my eighteen year old self. It was hard to cast my mind back to such an irresponsible time of my life! These two friends seem to take it much further than I did – the drinking, all night dancing, smoking and trysts with random men, generally for one night only, with rules I didn’t really agree with morally. It certainly is an eye opener and the accompanying sex scenes were very saucy in some places. Escape and hedonism are reinforced in many aspects of this rousing venture in overcoming loss.

Underlining the story is a focus on the darkness that seems to haunt Lucy. Wolstenholme looks at what it means to consumed by the need to escape and the lure of vices such as drinking, smoking and partying. Wolstenholme examines avoidance of reality, ill decisions, grief, blame and emotional pain. Friendship is another theme, along with infidelity, the inability to commit and the struggle to attain a true sense of belonging. These are serious themes, which are touched on with of both shades of darkness and hope. There was a sense of urgency that seemed to wash over me while reading The Sunrise Girl. Although I struggled to like Lucy and Em, I was intrigued by the mystery of the circumstances surrounding Lucy’s husband’s death and my desire to see Lucy make an informed decision about the direction of her life.

The Sunrise Girl is a believable novel, that covers tough and emotional terrain. This is a powerful life lit title, involving a woman attempting to restore her inner self in the face of immense grief and guilt. Readers of contemporary fiction and women’s fiction will be drawn to this one.

The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme was published on 12th December 2019 by Making Magic Happen Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Sunrise Girl, Lisa Wolstenholme, visit here.

*Thanks extended to the author, Lisa Wolstenholme, for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

The Sunrise Girl is book #13 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge 



2 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme

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