Book review: Amber and Alice by Janette Paul

Friday, June 23, 2017 Permalink

I think if I’d known rom-com author Janette Paul was also Jaye Ford – Australian suspense / crime fiction author I might have tucked into this book earlier. And not wavered quite so much in the early stages.

I’m afraid I may have been put off by the cover… which was way too glossy and bright (for me!) and reminded me of a UBD or travel guide or something. Of course that latter part is probably with good reason, because the book does offer a bit of an insider’s guide into the Northern Territory and central Australia.

Book review: Amber and Alice by Janette PaulAmber and Alice
by Janette Paul
Published by Penguin Random House Australia
on May 29th 2017
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Humour, Romance
ISBN: 0143783084
Pages: 389

When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage's speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .

Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.

And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.

But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets - and Amber must decide which horizon to follow . . .

I have to admit I spent most of the first fifty or so pages confused. I wasn’t sure who Rhonda was and why Sage kept talking about her. I knew she’d broken her arm but had missed the bit about the fact she and Sage had planned to do the outback tag-along tour and Amber was her last-minute replacement. Obviously Paul’s written the book in a way (that) we’re supposed to identify with the kinda kidnapped (though really just drunk-at-the-time and amenable-to-anything) Amber, but I kept reading and re-reading bits trying to find bits of conversations I’d missed. And then there was the fact Sage drove me bonkers and I felt angry on behalf of Amber that she was being coerced into the trip and none of her fellow tourists seemed to be concerned or vaguely sympathetic.

I persevered however and I’d recommend doing so, because I settled into this book (and this trip) by the midway point. Thankfully though (spoiler alert, though not really) we ditch Sage part-way through, cos quite frankly she pissed me off. A lot. She’s the flaky sister but guilelessly allows everyone to assume Amber’s the problem for the first part of the book. And her supposed reason for bringing Amber along (to trace her father) seems very noble until she ditches her sister and moves on at the first opportunity. #WTF?!

Amber’s romance with Tom seems predictable. We know it’s coming from the early stages and we kinda know how the story is going to pan out, but fortunately Paul does a good job with the characters and after a few early glitches, Amber and Tom become complex and interesting people I enjoyed meeting – as did most of the tag-alongs.

There’s also a slightly deeper thread passing through this romantic comedy – about the way many of us feel obliged to do what’s expected or right, rather than following our passions or dreams. (Ah yes, you’re thinking… that old chestnut – and it’s certainly one most of us can relate to.) There were also a few references to living life in parentheses and needing a circuit breaker, so this book is very much about change and living a more passionate / authentic life.

I probably might have liked a little more closure when it came to Amber and her father. Learning more about him sets her off towards the end and though there’s a change a heart (and mind and stuff), I kinda wish Paul had more-clearly resolved that issue in Amber’s mind.

I’ve very much enjoyed Jaye Ford’s work and read three of her six novels: Blood Secret, Already Dead and Darkest Place. I’m not as smitten by this book which is probably more about my reading taste, but gather this novel is something she’s had on the back-burner (and in her heart) for many years. I certainly enjoyed the journey (and I’m talking about the literal one not the wanky metaphorical one favoured by reality show contestants) to Uluru and Alice Springs and even I was interested – and slightly tempted – by the notion of such a trip!

Amber and Alice by Janette Paul was published by Penguin Random House in Australia and is now available.

* As an aside, this would be a great road trip audiobook to accompany outback travel!

I received a copy of this book from the publishers for review purposes.


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