#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · contemporary fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron

Title: Happy Hour

Author: Jacquie Byron

Published: August 31st 2021

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 352

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

Gin in one hand, paintbrush in the other, Franny Calderwood has turned her back on the world. Having lost her husband, Frank, she lives a life of decadent seclusion with her two dogs, Whisky and Soda and a stuffed cat.

Then the Salernos move in next door – a charming trio: newly-single mother Sallyanne, moody teenager Dee and eccentric eight-year-old Josh – and Franny finds herself drawn into the chaos of their lives in eccentric, hilarious and sometimes misguided ways. These friendships bring her to life, artistic Josh reminding her of her of the beauty of life, and passionate Dee re-inspiring the enjoyment of glamour and excitement that Franny used to share with Frank.

But, when an accident forces Franny to confront the pain beneath her wisecracks and culinary experiments, she comes to realise that the loss of Frank does not have to mean she also needs to lose herself.

powerful story about one woman, two dogs and the family next door, Happy Hour is a hilarious and uplifting insight into true love, loss and friendship.

Review:

A warm, witty and life affirming tale from a fresh new voice in Australian contemporary fiction, Happy Hour is the first novel from Melbourne author Jacquie Byron. A story of love in its many forms, overwhelming grief, relationships and connection, Happy Hour is a drama/comedy not be missed.

A story of ageing both gracefully and disgracefully, Happy Hour follows the life of Franny Calderwood, a woman grieving the loss of her husband three years ago. To cope with her whelming grief, Franny decides to retreat from the world. This talented artist decides to watch the world go by with her beloved canine companions Whisky and Soda, a stuffed cat and some good drinks on hand. But things change for this recluse when a new family move in next door. With a harassed mother, a sullen teenager and an odd eight-year-old to contend with, Franny soon becomes a part of their lives, whether she likes it or not. Franny is a woman who likes to put on a front, especially to her new neighbours. Despite making it clear that she enjoys her own company and independence, Franny is a woman suffering immeasurable grief. When things come to a head, Franny realises that she needs her neighbours more than she cares to admit. How will Franny’s life change thanks to her new neighbours?

Equal parts sad and hilarious, Jacquie Byron’s Happy Hour was a reassuring tale that I enjoyed over the Christmas holiday period. After interviewing the author of Happy Hour earlier this year, I have had a deep desire to read her first book. I really enjoyed the mix of humour and sentiment with this one, Happy Hour was an uplifting read.

Leading the charge in Jacquie Byron’s first novel is Franny Calderwood. I don’t think I have quite encountered a character like Franny in book form before! Eccentric, flamboyant but also staunchly set in her ways, Franny was a vibrant soul. I really I loved getting to know Franny and I would happily share a cocktail or two with her! Byron conjures up the spirit of her lead very well indeed, I felt like I really got to know this main protagonist well. I could sympathise with Franny’s feelings very much and I dearly wanted Franny to move on successfully to the next stage of her life, away from her immense grief. Surrounding the character of Franny are some fabulous side characters, from typical teenager Dee, quirky Josh and reserved Sallyanne. Byron captures the unique traits of all these characters despite their age and gender differences. Likewise, I adored Franny’s loyal pets Whiskey and Soda. I’m sure you can tell I’m a big dog lover! Each of these characters, human and animal, help to make Happy Hour a very memorable tale.

Despite the jovial tone of Happy Hour, there are some poignant themes that underscore this good-natured tale. From grief, loss, love, protection, identity, loneliness, trust, addiction, violence, life decisions and selfishness, this is a very honest contemporary narrative. With a strong emphasis placed on loved ones, Happy Hour leaves much food for thought in the life department. With the added bonus of some generous food and drink descriptions, Jacquie Byron’s novel holds widespread appeal.

A compassionate tale about the ails of the modern world, with an emphasis on grief and disconnection, Happy Hour is book that is worthy of your time.

Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron was published on 31st August 2021 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Happy Hour Jacquie Byron, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Happy Hour is book #109 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

3 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron

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