The lives of three females come together in a small hut in a wetland reserve. They each bring their struggles, their quirks and their sense of longing for change. But this is not a novel of angst and pain. Instead it is a celebration of the possibilities all women carry deep inside. Loretta, the librarian, who wants to celebrate the women of the world who have achieved so much, allows us to glimpse the spectacular in life. Chance, a schoolgirl, who was accidentally named Porsche, has to establish herself as a person separate from her literary Mum, and Riva, the woman who came back to New Zealand to create and nurture a wetland area.
You know you are reading a good book when you find that the author seems to be inside your own head, and knows your secret thoughts. While the story itself twists and turns between the main characters, it is the inner thoughts which are so clearly expressed that resonate with me. Men do feature but they are like footnotes, and it is the strength of the women which gives energy to the story. There is a strong storyline and purpose in the telling, as each character has to resolve their own problems. The writing is beautiful and captures the place as well as the emotions in this corner of the South Island.
Laurence Fearnley continues to write about the struggles we have to be ourselves in a world which wants us to conform. The Hut Builder (2011) did this so well, and she has continued to explore such relationships in The Quiet Spectacular. The title, the cover and the chapter illustrations add an extra layer of beauty to the story with detailed plant sketches. Truly spectacular.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
The Quiet Spectacular
by Laurence Fearnley
Published by Penguin Random House NZ