Friday, 26 June 2015

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

Cambridge 1963. 
Charlotte struggles to reconnect with the woman she was before children, and to find the time and energy to paint. 
Her husband, Henry, cannot face the thought of another English winter. 
A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: '

Australia brings out the best in you'.

Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it is travelling to the other side of the world. 
But on their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. 
Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs, and how far she'll go to find her way home...

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop is published by Tinder Press on 13 August 2015.

This book is one of those books that made my heart lurch about my chest, for many reasons. Not least is that it's the sort of book that sends fear through a blogger's head. Pure fear. The fear that as someone who is not a writer, but an avid reader and book lover, and a person who wants to shout about the books that I have loved, that I won't be able to find any words to describe the story.

Crikey this one is good. It's one of those 'hair stands up on the back of your neck' affairs. It's slow and gentle and lyrical and almost melodic.

Two people; Charlotte and Henry. Obviously in love despite their contrasting nature and opinions. The parents of two small children. Two little girls who drain Charlotte, who consume her every waking minute. She loves her children, but she yearns for her life as a painter, pre-children. She takes solace in the surrounding countryside, Traipsing the fields, delighting in the wildlife, the greenery, the silence, the open space.

Henry is also consumed. Consumed by his hatred of the cold English winter weather. Consumed by thoughts that he is not quite good enough. Aware that people treat him a little differently because of his mixed heritage. For this is 1960s Britain and despite mixing in the most cultured of company, he is aware of glances and comments.  Henry is also consumed by the contents of a leaflet that describes a land on the other side of the world. The leaflet invites him to apply to emigrate to Australia - land of year-round sunshine, and warmth. A land that he is sure will accept him.

Charlotte does not want to leave the fields and the trees of England, but she is tired and she loves Henry and eventually they arrive in Australia.

Charlotte yearns. Henry realises. Australia is not the answer. It doesn't matter how many thousands of miles that you travel, you cannot leave yourself behind. Your problems, and beliefs will be there, as part of your checked-in baggage.

Stephanie Bishop writes with such apparent ease, her script flows effortlessly, taking the reader as passengers on Charlotte and Henry's journey. Her ability to describe landscapes and places is quite stunning. The cold, wild landscape of rural wintry England, to the cloudless skies and overwhelming heat of Australia; both of these settings come alive evoking such a sense of place that it can be quite startling when you look up from the book and find yourself in your own back garden, or lounge, or on the train.

This author also gets deep into the minds of her characters, both male and female. The reader is well aware of the character's failings and real issues long before they realise themselves.

There are so many strands to this story, with issues of culture and parenthood, relationships and honesty all addressed so beautifully.

A slow-moving, gently unfurling story that is sure to be a huge success for Stephanie Bishop .... oh, and that ending ......

I don't really like to compare authors, but if you love Maggie O Farrell's writing, then you are sure to love The Other Side of the World too.

Huge thanks to Tinder Press who sent my copy for review.

Stephanie Bishop was named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Australian Novelists for her first novel, The Singing, and has been shortlisted for numerous Australian literary awards.
She studied at Cambridge, where much of The Other Side of the World is set, and is currently a lecturer in creative writing at the University of New South Wales.

Follow her on Twitter @slb_bishop and look out for the Twitter buzz by searching for #TOSOTW



  1. Lovely review makes this sound extremely tempting

  2. I think the ending fell a bit flat for me - maybe a little too predictable?