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Book DetailsISBN: 9780143789215
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Book Review: The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker - Reviewed by CloggieA (08 Feb 2019)
“’If you knew who I really was, you wouldn’t be wasting your energy.’ ‘I may not know who you were, but I reckon I know who you are.’”
The Cottage at Rosella Cove is the second novel by Australian author, Sandie Docker. When recently-published author, Nicole Miller comes to Rosella Cove, she’s trying not to think about the last few years of her life. She’s here to escape all that. She has a six-month lease on a coastal cottage, rent-free as long as she does some minor restoration work. But the reality is daunting. It’s been unlived-in (except by a possum) since Ivy Wilson died, forty years ago, and Nicole may have overstated her renovation skills. She has little choice, however, arriving penniless and with a bad case of writer’s block, so she knuckles down.
Soon enough she runs into Charlie, a taciturn old man apparently living in the nearby boatshed, who clearly does not want to socialise (and maybe that suits Nicole too). Other members of the town are at the opposite end of the social interaction scale: at Trevor’s Tradies, Mandy proves to be a chatty busy-body who seems to know everything and everyone and is, before long, barging in without invitation. She does bring with her an entourage of willing helpers whose assistance Nicole finds herself gratefully accepting. It seems the town wants this restoration done, and done well.
There’s a lot of hard work, but Nicole is rewarded by a fascinating find: a carved shell box filled with letters Ivy wrote to her husband over seventy years earlier. Other hints and mentions of Ivy’s life see Nicole succumbing to breaking the seals and reading these private letters, limiting herself, with remarkable restraint, to one each day.
Three basic narratives tell the story: present day events are told from Nicole’s (and occasionally Charlie’s) perspective; the events that drove Nicole from the city are revealed when certain things force her to recall her toxic relationship with lawyer, Mark Avery; and Ivy’s letters chat informally about her life, always including some town gossip. Slowly, in hints and clues and tiny traces, the mystery that surrounds the enigmatic hermit in the boatshed is unveiled.
Docker’s characters (obviously except for the psychopath) are appealing, for all their faults and failings, and it’s satisfying to see them overcome the weaknesses that hold them back. As with The Kookaburra Creek Café, Docker’s small town has a genuine sense of community, of kindness and support that, despite the gossip and the lack of privacy, make it a place to which it would be a joy to belong. Docker’s second novel may well cement her place as the queen of the Aussie feelgood novel. A superb read.
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