This is Andrea Goldsmith‘s second book, and one that I hadn’t heard of before. I read it for my C.A.E. bookgroup – a night of wine, laughter, affection amongst the women my daughter has dubbed “The Ladies Who Say Oooooh” (because apparently we work ourselves up into a chorus of ‘oooooh’ at some stage during the night. I’m not sure if this is a compliment or not).
The book’s main character, Phillipa Finemore, is a wealthy widow whose adult children expect her to share the family money with them and subside into a well-heeled widow’s existence as their mother and grandmother. Instead she sells the big family home, shifts into a terrace house in Carlton, starts a charitable foundation, travels with her deceased husband’s lover and secretary, and befriends a Jewish bookstore owner and then a 25 year old university student.
The goodies and baddies are stereotyped and one-dimensional. There’s the grasping daughter and embezzling son-in-law; the insipid and incompetent son, and the good gay son who gets on well with his mother. There are overdrawn parodies of the self-aggrandizing business school and a grasping evangelical preacher and his young wholesome wife. The slabs of Goldsmith’s own opinions about the perils of family and the commodification of university education, voiced through the characters, became laboured too.
In spite of all this, though, I enjoyed reading the book. It was almost Anne Tyler-ish in places, and although very wordy, captured emotions and descriptions well. I felt glee at the come-uppance of such unpleasant people, so I must have been engaged with this book in spite of myself.