Title: The Wattle Island Book Club
Author: Sandie Docker
Published: August 31st 2021
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
A moving and heartwarming story about taking risks and finding a new lease on life, by the bestselling author of The Banksia Bay Beach Shack.
Is it ever too late to rewrite your own story?
In 1950, teenager Anne flees Wattle Island for the big city, where she learns that establishing the life she’s always dreamed of isn’t as easy as she thought. When a secret she’s been keeping is discovered, she has no choice but to retreat home and live a quiet life. But when tragedy strikes, establishing the Wattle Island book club is the only thing that offers her solace.
In 2018, spirited librarian Grace has been writing bucket lists since she was a child, and is ticking off as many challenges as she can now that life has handed her a hefty dose of perspective. Heading to Wattle Island on one of her adventures, she is determined to uncover a long-held mystery surrounding the town’s historic book club, unlocking a buried truth that has been trapped between the dusty pages of secrecy for years.
All too aware of how fragile life is, Anne and Grace must come together to help the residents of Wattle Island find the bravery to move beyond the trauma that tore the book club apart. Budding relationships offer new hope, along with a library project for the town’s future – but it will take more than a few lively literary debates to break the silence and heal the past.
Welcome to the Wattle Island Book Club, where some chapters may end, but others are just beginning…
‘But that was the magic of books. They turned strangers into friends and when that happened, there was no limit to the possibilities.’
A bittersweet tribute to life, love, death, courage, passion and hope, The Wattle Island Book Club is the fourth novel from Australian author Sandie Docker. With a strong link from the past to the present, Sandie Docker’s latest release has plenty of talking points to consider. A life affirming and highly rewarding tale awaits the reader once they step into the lives of the wonderful folk that inhabit The Wattle Island Book Club. This proved to be another victorious read from an author that I hold in very high regard.
Beginning in the year 1950, we meet a teenage girl named Anne who decides to depart from her safe and comfortable home on quaint Wattle Island, for the bright city lights of Sydney. Anne hopes to create a new life for herself in the capital of New South Wales, but she finds it hard to say goodbye to a special someone. As Anne struggles to gain employment and recognition in her workplace, she is drawn back to the comforting arms of Wattle Island. When Anne returns home, she is faced with a difficult set of circumstances and to cope with this setback, she kick starts a new book club on the island. Moving forward in time to 2018, we meet a Grace, a woman with a big love of books. Grace cherishes her books but she also enjoys creating bucket lists. Grace has been plagued with illness since a young girl and as a direct result Grace values every day she is still alive. Grace is aware that she may be on borrowed time, so she ticks items off her bucket lists in an effort to overcome her hardship. Grace embarks on a trip to Wattle Island in her effort to tick off an item from her bucket list, but she ends up connecting with the remaining threads of little book club on the island. Grace is motivated to find out what happened to this tiny book club and in the process, she connects with a mysterious member of the book club and her grandson. Anne and Grace work in unison to settle the wounds of the past and move forward in the present towards a more promising future. The Wattle Island Book Club is about creating new opportunities and recasting the direction of your life for the better.
Tender, gentle, heartwarming and reflective, The Wattle Island Book Club is a book that encourages you to take a big deep breath and smell the roses. I loved how life affirming and contemplative this powerful book proved to be, it sure was another stunning piece of literature from Sandie Docker.
Linking present day times in the year 2018, with our not-too-distant past in the 1950s, The Wattle Island Book Club successfully melds together these two time periods. Sandie Docker is confident in her approach to both time pockets included in her novel and what emerges from this book is an authentic, rich, moving and meditative set piece. The Wattle Island Book Club travels very easily from one decade to another, pulling out the main issues that influence both time frames. Within the 1950s past narrative, we are presented with a myriad of conflicts surrounding love, personal choices, employment, working conditions, gender relations, opportunity and prejudice. While in the present-day thread, Docker explores themes of family, protection, health, truth, suppression, trust, love and ageing. Each theme is well advised so it carries a great deal of significance to the story at large. However, the most resounding subject line that links the two timelines to together is the literacy focus and the idea that books are an essential part of our social fabric. We witness this directly through the highly engaging book club and literary aspects of The Wattle Island Book Club.
Sandie Docker has produced a memorable set of characters to feature in her fourth novel. I developed a very firm and early connection to Grace. Grace’s journey just seemed to click with me from the opening of the novel. I was soon invested in Grace’s very emotional pathway to achieving health and happiness. Grace is placed under a great deal of pressure and I felt this almost instantly. Docker conveys Grace’s emotional ties really well. Likewise, the character of Anne is delicately woven into the central fabric of this novel. It is hard to not get lost in Anne’s very personal journey. Anne’s pathway really touched my soul and her difficult experiences broke my heart, particularly in regards to prejudice and following your heart. The background cast all work to add further interest and intrigue to the unfolding story.
The Wattle Island Book Club is set to a wonderful and very memorable backdrop, which is bestowed upon the reader with passion. I often felt like an extra or a visitor to the beautiful island featured in the novel. This suited me just fine as I was very keen to escape my mundane working week to a much more agreeable location! Docker has truly outdone herself yet again with The Wattle Island Book Club by producing a well-situated novel that celebrates the weight of the written word. I adored the literary references in this book, they were fantastic! I made a special note of all the stories featured in this novel and I hope you do too!
The Wattle Island Book Club is a wistful story that sparkles with care, review, reflection, understanding, pure truth and hope. If you are feeling down, this one will lift you up high, so make sure you pick it up to read as soon as you can!
The Wattle Island Book Club by Sandie Docker was published on 31 August 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Wattle Island Book Club, Sandie Docker, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Wattle Island Book Club is book #80 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge