Book Review / A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski


Would you join a book club that might challenge you to change your life? This one’s more than wine and laughs.”
Jan Allerton reviews A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski, a compelling novel about four women who take a month away from normality.

 


“It is allowed, you know, to do something, to say something, that’s all about you…”

Would you join a book club that might challenge you to change your life? This one’s more than wine and laughs.

Through the popular and loved medium of a book club, Liz Byrski tackles the major theme of women’s place in society – how women are trained to be anxious, insecure and lacking self-worth, and the strategies they use to get through life.

The phrase ‘a month of Sundays’ usually implies something you’d wish to avoid, but for Adele, Ros, Simone and Judy, the invitation to spend a month in the Blue Mountains – reading, talking and relaxing – is a chance to escape difficult situations. It is also, despite their fears, a chance to find themselves.

The author has a great deal of psychological reading to draw from; a key feature is the many pithy pieces of counselling wisdom. Usually these are the outcome of the sensitive connectivity that develops between women in a book group. In this novel one woman each week presents a favourite book.  As the women explore their reactions to characters and events in the novels, past beliefs and wounds are brought out. Each woman is at a critical point in her life, and emotions spill out, bringing surprise and drama.

The month living together provides the strength and pace of the book, and the ups and downs of the women’s development and change leads to an unexpected ending for each of them. With four women, there is a lot to be told about what has happened in the past. Much of this is revealed as the book discussion sessions unfold, although the stories are set up in the first chapters. The exploration of the main theme is supported by a surprising and upsetting revelation as the weeks go by, but the ending is a strong emphasis on the idea that it’s never too late to face hidden issues and tough decisions about change.

Liz Byrski is a fluid writer, taking the reader through emotional and difficult situations. Ros’ relationship with her lost husband is touching and realistic. And dog-lovers will find the role of ‘Clooney’ heart-warming. Most striking, the physical and psychological description of each woman is well-depicted, as are the similarities and differences between them.

As well as being a good read, this book may raise questions about what’s been going on in your local book group. I also wonder if extroverts would find it so simpatico; but then, perhaps they aren’t likely to relish settling down with a good book. Something I will never understand.


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