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July book club - The Other Side of the World

(67 Posts)
Grannyjacq1 Fri 01-Jul-16 13:50:07

My copy of the July bookclub novel has just landed on my door mat - thank you! Can't wait to start reading it (will have to put 'Wolf Hall' on hold for a week or two - which won't be too difficult). I am particularly interested in Stephanie Bishop's novel as my sister moved to Australia over 30 years ago.

Pennyjw Tue 26-Jul-16 13:16:04

First of all, thank you for the book, it was a lovely surprise and I read it on holiday.

I adore books about life in other countries and at other times so this was definitely for me. By the end, I had been fascinated by life in Australia and the experiences of Henry and Charlotte - brilliant descriptions, great use of words, which made the place come alive - that was the author's strength. I was a little disappointed in the characters themselves - I felt I was looking AT them and not living them, hence I had no strong bond with them and they seemed a little vapid. I shall try the author's other book as overall, for me, this one has been a good read!

kyalami Tue 26-Jul-16 15:59:00

Thank you for the opportunity to read this book.
Poor Charlotte, isn't her life so dreary! Perhaps she has post natal depression or maybe she is a woman who doesn't mind being taken for granted & what her husband says goes. I can see that Henry wants a lovely life for his family and although he isn't unkind to Charlotte he isn't really able to compromise. The descriptive writing in this book really sets the scenes and makes the story. I found the story ending a bit abrupt but I did enjoy the read.

Grannyknot Tue 26-Jul-16 16:52:22

I was given this book (didn't get it from GN). I thought I might identify with the characters in it in some way, having changed countries myself (I never call myself an immigrant, I'm not sure what I am - a bit like Henry, I guess).

But, as others have said, what a flipping dreary book. Unless Charlotte did have PND (difficult to work out as it is not made clear), could she not have found some joy and purpose in her new surroundings, or found a bit of gratitude to have all that time with her children? I became very irritated with all the main characters. I enjoyed the chapters where Henry goes to India the most.

Cosafina Tue 26-Jul-16 22:07:54

I enjoyed this book, but it didn't engross me the way some books can (and do).

I've tried not to read the other reviews first, but my eyes did fall upon one complaining about Charlotte being an absent mother. Having been a single mother in my teens back in the early 70s, I can kind of sympathise with Charlotte. Although she yearns for the person she used to be, I can remember yearning to find out who I was meant to be. In fact that was what I enjoyed most about the book: its description of that dichotomy between how much you love your child - and how much you wish you could be free to be you. I can understand how some women would find that difficult to grasp, but then we're lucky enough to have this children at the right time in their lives, and with the right partner in life. I was not, though I was a little surprised that Charlotte felt the same way, as I thought she did love Henry.
I also felt that he loved her, in spite of his selfish behaviour. It was clear that they didn't communicate enough, and I wasn't sure if I was meant to take that as a symptom of their relationship or of the times.
Most of all, I felt cheated at the end. I know it's the modern fashion to allow the reader to choose their own ending (did she go back in, or did she leave again?) but to me that's a bit of a cop out on the part of the author - I want the author to tell me the whole story, and not leave me to decide (unless it's the ending of The Sopranos - that was superb, though I did shout at the telly for about 10 mins saying it wasn't allowed grin).

Cosafina Tue 26-Jul-16 22:09:43

"But then they were lucky enough" not "but then we're lucky enough" - damn iPad!

Noni Thu 28-Jul-16 06:20:07

I've just finished the book - thanks for my copy.
I agree with many others that the post natal depression, not recognised then, was clearly a big part of Charlotte's character. But that is what drove the book in quite a big part. It can still go undiagnosed today and some prefer not to take medication if it is diagnosed. Support for Charlotte seemed zero, both here and in Australia, which is why the book was so dark in many parts and explains what drove Charlotte to leave her family. As for Henry's character, that seems almost to be irrelevant as he just played his part as was expected at that time. There seemed no strength to the marriage, but I assume that was intended. I was hoping that the mixed race marriage would play a stronger role, but was disappointed that was not worked on more. It must have been very unusual then.
The one scene when Charlotte sees her children for the first time in a year, keeping herself unseen by them, not realistic at all - a mother's feeling for her children, for whom she ached so much, must surely be overwhelming. Charlotte would surely not have been able to really behave as she did?
Having said all that, I did want to finish the book and found the end intriguing. I have two questions. Was Charlotte's post natal depression meant to drive the book? And was the ending, which I read as Charlotte resigning herself to going back rather than making an informed choice my correct interpretation?

GrannyGlyn Fri 29-Jul-16 01:29:33

I finished this book last week on holiday (no internet!) but have only now found the time to comment on it.

I was looking forward to reading it as my husband and I considered relocating to Australia in the mid seventies but I couldn't do it. He often mentions it now and wishes we had gone.

I was lucky that I was able to choose unlike Charlotte.

I did find Charlotte's behaviour odd at times especially as she seemed to leave her children unattended at times. I was quite the opposite and rarely let mine out of my sight. I have read other reviews and am ashamed to say that PND never occurred to me as the reason for her actions. Now perhaps I can see what the author was doing.

Henry irritated me. Don't know why exactly, but he did. Perhaps it was because it seemed that he was living in his own world and didn't see (or didn't want to see) that Charlotte was having problems.

Can I ask what the authors next project is?

nannyto5 Fri 29-Jul-16 23:24:48

The descriptions of places, events and people are beautiful and transport you right in there. I'm afraid I was constantly cross with Charlotte and forever telling her to pull herself together and get on with life (maybe that's because I'm old school and believe you should work at your marriage).
I couldn't believe what she did to her children.
I read my books in bed to help me to sleep. The night before last I put this book down with what appeared to be a couple of chapters left. I couldn't believe it last night when the last few pages were the acknowledgements! I had no idea the story had ended the previous night! I had to go back and re-read the last chapters.
It still left me wanting to know what happens to the family. I hope there's more to come.

annemac101 Sat 30-Jul-16 10:11:26

I'm finding this book a bit hard to get into and as I'm going on holiday in a few days I will take it with me. I will put a review on my book blog as soon as I've finished it.

marpau Sat 30-Jul-16 10:17:18

I was hooked from page one to the end. The authors vividly drawn images and scenes made me imagine was really there. I could empathise with Charlotte feeling overwhelmed by motherhood and the feelings of losing ones own identity. I also felt for her husband as he obviously felt he was doing g the best for his family however there were points when I wanted to shake them both. Overall a good read which didn't require to much thinking perfect for a holiday read.

harrigran Sat 30-Jul-16 10:44:53

I don't think I will finish reading this book it uses too many flowery descriptions at the expense of the story. I can usually tell if I will enjoy a book after the first few pages but this one sadly went from mediocre to dreary. I expect a more interesting read when the cover announces that the author is a prize winner. Would not recommend this book to anyone.

Coppernob Sat 30-Jul-16 18:53:01

I'm sorry to say I'm struggling with this book. It hasn't 'grabbed' me and I'm finding it heavy going. There is a lot of descriptive writing and not much actual story as yet. I have now started reading something else instead, though I will go back to it at some point to see if i can get into it.

Happygran65 Sun 31-Jul-16 20:12:39

This book started in the 1960s when a family living in England decided to emigrate to Australia. I felt that Charlotte seemed to be suffering from depression all the way through the book. There was not much joy in the story for any of the family including the children. I was shocked when Charlotte left her family and never got in touch with them for a whole year, and it appears that when they were finally reunited she left those two little girls again. I did not enjoy the story, but I thought it was well written.

halfgran Wed 03-Aug-16 15:47:44

Finally finished reading this book. I found it really hard to pick up and read on as Charlotte and Henry really irritated me. I also never thought about post natal depression but just thought they were those airy fairy arty minded people who don't seem to connect fully with the real world, especially the responsibilities of parenthood. I also thought the flowery descriptions( as a previous poster aptly described it) were part and parcel of the two main characters attitude to life. I was looking forward to this book as in the early eighties my then husband and two small children were on the verge of being Australia bound to start a new life, then we decided a divorce was the only thing to sort our marriage problems out, maybe Charlotte and Henry should have done the same!

Penygirl Wed 03-Aug-16 23:08:41

Like many previous posters, I found this book a bit dreary. Some of the descriptive passages were excellent, making full use of all the senses, but then others seemed to be just the same thing repeated. Whilst reading this book, it became obvious to me that I prefer a book with more action but that is clearly just my personal preference.
I found it difficult to identify with either character - Charlotte's depression influenced everything she did and Henry's lack of identity made him drift through life. Presumably he thought that emigrating would solve all his problems.
I also struggled with the ending. I'm still not sure whether Charlotte walked away from her family again or went back to them.

chelseababy Wed 17-Aug-16 18:29:38

I've just finished the book today! Just as well the August book is late. I quite enjoyed the book but found it too slow moving and started to skip some of the descriptive passages. I thought the fling while Henry was in India was predictable but I thought we learnt a lot about Henry on his visit to his homeland. My main thought was would a wife of today just up sticks in the same way? Maybe the PND made her give in too easily?