Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Review: Keeping Up Appearances

Title: Keeping Up Appearances
Author: Tricia Stringer

Publisher: 5th October 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 464 pages

Genre: contemporary

My Rating: 4 cups


As tensions simmer in a small country town, three women are going to need more than CWA sausage rolls and can-do community spirit to put things right. From a bestselling Australian author comes a delightful novel full of practical wisdom and dry humour that examines female friendship, buried secrets and why honesty is (usually) the best policy.

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else's business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige's only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs, but she is met only with generosity and a plethora of baked goods. Besides, both the brusque Marion and her polished sister-in-law Briony are too busy dealing with their own dramas to examine hers.

Well-to-do farmer's wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family's troubles. Even with her eldest daughter's marriage in ruins and her son Blake's recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again - and the piles of laundry aren't the only dirty linen that's about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule - its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend - is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn't mean she won't lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them - especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

When the truth comes out for Badara, keeping up appearances may no longer be an option for anyone ...

My Thoughts

A small fictional country town called Badara in South Australia, is the setting for Tricia Stringer’s latest offering, Keeping Up Appearances. A place where lies and secrets are about to all come out - don’t they always? Tricia writes a real to life story of the fallout and ramifications of keeping secrets in an effort to ‘keep up appearances’.

“We just got on with it, I suppose ... We were…” Briony felt sick. "Keeping up appearances." Chelsea nodded. The realisation that her daughter had learned to keep secrets like she had hit Briony like a rock to the head.’

As usual Tricia includes a strong cast of characters that cover all ages, from early twenties to those in their seventies, and their accompanying diverse family circumstances. There are some big issues in this book - sexuality, drugs, relationships -  and Tricia deals with them in her usual sensitive way. Some people may find opinions and viewpoints dated but that comes down to Tricia covering a spectrum of  individual ages, experience and personal opinions. 

‘You're not the only one who can keep up appearances - but what's normal anyway? Who really knows what anyone's marriage is truly like? Is anyone's relationship like the images we're bombarded with in the media?’

This is an easy read with engaging characters, encompassing problems and solutions typical to small town living. Yet, delve a little deeper - this is a story about how we each have our flaws and imperfections and the facades and secrets we apply often lead to drama. This is a story of understanding and compassion, growth and development. As the title so aptly indicates, what lengths people are prepared to go to in keeping up appearances for others and more importantly, at what cost? 

This is another great story of family and friends with Tricia, a master at producing authentic and real people and places that takes you right to the centre of the community. A story of the pressures of keeping up the facade as opposed to love and acceptance. 

“Deep breath in." Courtney dipped her hands below her knees, swept them in a high arc above her head and flung her arms out as they came down. "Throw away your cares.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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