Finally a fictional experience of motherhood I can relate to in Bishop’s The Other Side of the World

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Writing, Writing Thoughts

Charlotte and Henry married, and had a child, then another. Charlotte is run down by the monotony of motherhood and Henry by the English weather as opposed to childhood memories of India. Henry decides to move them to Australia, where Charlotte continues to struggle, and their marriage becomes less and less close as they refuse to recognise what each other needs.

After my recent revelations of the lack of realistic mothers in fiction, this book was refreshing. Here was a young mother facing what I do every day; the relentless needs of (admirably adorable) children, the sacrifice of self that you aren’t quite sure you signed up for, the challenges of being at home on your own. Though for me this was the most compelling as it is the closest to my current experience, the rest of the book was excellent too, with the themes coming through the sparse prose almost between the words rather than through them.

And it’s rather lucky that I enjoyed it, as I’m going to an event with author Stephanie Bishop tomorrow, as well as Eowyn Ivey, author of one of my all time favourite books The Snow Child and new release To the Bright Edge of the World. Exciting!

Back to the book.

We are told the story through Charlotte and Henry’s viewpoints. Neither of them delve too deeply into thoughts or emotions; the reader is left to come to our own conclusions in a way similar to in real life. We must interpret not only other people but ourselves from the collection of thoughts and feelings that are presented to us. This highlights, too, how Charlotte and Henry misinterpret each other.

It does mean we feel a little held at arms distance; or perhaps the opposite. We see how the characters behave largely on their own, rather than amongst other humans or even with each other. In terms of motherhood, this emphasises the extreme aloneness that it can be, but also serves as a focus. We see only parts of who these people are.

I read this very quickly. I really enjoyed the concept and execution of the whole piece, and felt it tackled parts of life often ignored. Early marriage. Trying to get to know and understand each other. Trying to be good parents, how difficult it is. The longing for home, and the fact that the idea of home can only be a memory.

Fantastically put together, very enjoyable, readable, relatable and thought through. I recommend it heartily!

Thanks so much to the publishers for my review copy, I really enjoyed it and can’t WAIT for tomorrow!

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