Friday 8 November 2019

Book Review: THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD by Vanessa McCausland

Author: Vanessa McCausland
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: October 2019
Expected publication: 16 December 2019
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

Phoebe's life has fallen apart and there's only one place left to go. Alone and adrift after a failed marriage proposal, she flees Sydney to her family's abandoned holiday cottage.

On the slow-moving river Phoebe is confronted with the legacy of her older sister's suicide, a year before. Why did Karin leave a note written in flowers and walk into the water?

Phoebe's childhood love, Jez, has moved back to the beautiful old house, Driftwood, one jetty down. He's married now and the home has become a refuge for an unlikely little community.

As the river begins to give up its secrets, Phoebe finds herself caught up in old feelings and new mysteries.

My musings:

I’m always a total sucker for an atmospheric setting, which initially attracted me to THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD. If the title and the book cover alone evoke a dreamy, melancholy feel, then you will be pleased to hear that the author’s words build on this theme with her beautiful story of family secrets, grief, reinventing yourself and ultimately healing and hope. It brings to life an Australia many of you may remember from your own childhood – holidays in a little cabin by the water, barbeques on hot summer nights, smoky skies with the threat of bushfires in the distance, birdsong, the hum of flies against the window pane. Vanessa McCausland has such a beautiful way with words that the setting sprang to life in front of my eyes, almost a character in itself. Add Phoebe, a young woman whose whole world has come crashing down after the apparent suicide of her older sister almost a year ago, followed by a recent relationship breakdown. Having hit rock-bottom, she flees back to the place where happy memories live – the family’s holiday cottage on the bank of a tranquil river, the very same place where her sister walked into the water to die.

Since the story relies on secrets kept and changing dynamics between characters, I will try to give as little away as possible here. It is safe to say though that Phoebe really touched my heart, and I felt a kinship with her that comes from having lived through loss and grief and the journey back to healing. I particularly appreciated that the author was not afraid to touch on some dark topics and explore her characters’ deepest secrets instead of going down the “happily ever after” route that would have robbed the book of the deep impact it left on me long after reading it. As Phoebe seeks solace in a place that has happy memories for her, she must also confront some truths about herself, her family and her past that are painful. After a journey through every possible emotion, its lingering message was that of love, and hope, and personal growth that left a warm glow in my heart (and I am not the warm and fuzzy reader type, so this takes some doing!). 


All in all, THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD is a beautiful, evocative and quintessentially Australian story that touches on topics of childhood, family, grief, first love and a sense of connection to places from our past. It touched my heart in all the right places and brought out a lot of emotions from my own life. McCausland has a beautiful way with words that brings to life the magical landscape of a small coastal Australian town as well as a rich cast of characters that became as real to me as people I had known all my life. A perfect summer read that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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