I absolutely adored Sophie Green’s debut novel, The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, so whatever she did next was always going to be at the top of my TBR list. I am pleased to report that I found The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle just as wonderful! I’ll pop the synopsis in here so you can get a feel for what The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is about, and then you can read on below for my review.
Synopsis of The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green
It’s 1982 in Australia. THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV.
In a seaside suburb, housewife Theresa takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.
From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.
After finding herself in a desperate situation, 25-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.
Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home and without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.
In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship, and learn that love takes many forms.
My review of The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle
This book was an absolute delight. Sophie Green has this amazing knack for writing women’s friendships. I love that the characters she brings together are women of different ages and backgrounds, but she manages to make their relationships develop in a way that feels natural – like they would really be friends rather than that they’ve been brought together for the sake of a story. All four of the Shelly Bay ladies felt authentic to me – there were bits about each of them that I could relate to – and I loved spending time with them.
One of the things I really like about the women being relatively different from each other is that it allows for a broad range of issues that women might experience to be explored throughout the book – including the every day like juggling families and work, as well as the bigger events that might touch us at some point in our lives like cancer and alcoholism and losing a partner or even child. Readers should also be aware that there is also mention of sexual assault.
At its heart, this is a book that celebrates the joy of female friendships and the way that we accept and support each other even when we are too hard on ourselves. I think fans of Green’s Fairvale Ladies will love the Shelly Bay Ladies just as much, and I can’t wait to share their story with my friends – along with a warning that they are likely to need tissues for some bits! I’m already looking forward to whatever Green is working for us next, and I’m so thrilled to be going to see her speak at the Canberra Writers Festival next month.
I’d love to hear in the comments if you’ve read this one or plan to.
The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green
Out now from Hachette.
Source: I received a free copy of this one for review from Hachette (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Modern Australian fiction (set in 1982)
Format: Trade paperback, 3868 pages