I very much enjoyed Cassie Hamer’s debut novel, After The Party. I followed her via Twitter before she was published so we’d sort of circled each other virtually for some time. She seemed like the sort of person I’d like IRL… if you know what I mean? You often get an idea of what someone might be like through their interactions with you and others even if you’ve not met them in person.
And Hamer’s accessible, familiar and easy prose in After The Party only cemented that feeling for me.
The End of Cuthbert Close
by Cassie Hamer
Published by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Women's Fiction
Food stylist Cara, corporate lawyer Alex and stay-at-home mum Beth couldn't be more different. If it wasn't for the fact they live next door to each other in Cuthbert Close, they'd never have met and bonded over Bundt cake.
The Close is an oasis of calm and kindness. The kind of street where kids play cricket together and neighbours pitch in each year for an end of summer party.
But no one's told Charlie Devine, glamorous wife of online lifestyle guru, The Primal Guy. When she roars straight into the party with her huge removal truck and her teenage daughter with no care or regard for decades-old tradition, the guacamole really hits the fan.
Cara thinks the family just needs time to get used to the village-like atmosphere. Beth wants to give them home cooked meals to help them settle in. Alex, says it's an act of war. But which one of them is right? Dead guinea pigs, cruelly discarded quiches, missing jewellery, commercial sabotage and errant husbands are just the beginning of a train of disturbing and rapidly escalating events that lead to a shocking climax.
A friend asked me (after another review recently) if I meant that ‘accessible’ writing implied it was ‘simple’ in some sort of derogatory way. “Absolutely not!” I responded. In many ways it’s the opposite. We all know those who write in such a way that we finish a sentence and no freakin’ idea what we just read. In my professional life that happens WAAAAY too often as people try to sound smart or learned.
In reality, being able to share things in a way that others lap-up delightedly is an art. It’s putting yourself in the mind of your audience (or reader in this case) and knowing exactly what it is they want and need.
And Hamer does that again here, offering believable dialogue and a brilliant combination of wit and snark.
Our lead characters are a delight. I loved that they stretched the age divide (though none quite my age!). Their children and their situations are all different and they themselves realise (in some ways) they have little in common, other than the bridges of friendship they’ve built as a result of proximity. They’ve become dependent on each other in the way close friends do. I’m not one to have a gazillion friends but I do know there are a few people with whom I can share the worst without them judging me.
That’s what Hamer does well here – portray the boundaries of those friendships. Of course the novel is about relationships more broadly: those with partners, parents, family, kids and well as in the workplace.
We meet all three woman at pivotal points in their lives. They’re there for each other but each has their very own unique battle.
Here Hamer offers us a reminder (no matter where we’re at in life) that we still have the opportunity to make the changes we need to make. To better align our lives with our values. To remind ourselves what’s important.
For much of the novel I felt Hamer had developed Charlie as a bit of a cliched Instagram influencer bitch. You know, the overdone anally-retentive health-freak we all love to hate. She’s not at all friendly towards our leads and really quite unpleasant. Her daughter, Talia is far more affable, though the relationship between the pair seems to be strained.
I did guess where things were heading. Not the specifics—which is good as I’d read far more malevolent things into unfolding events (obviously I read too much crime fiction—but Hamer pulls out a few surprises in the end.
I also appreciated that she ensures that our characters’ lives don’t go in a predictable direction. It ultimately felt very real.
Some of the themes from her previous novel, including motherhood and the judgement and guilt surrounding it, again feature.
You see everything through a lens of guilt. p 148
And popular culture is again reflected via Instagram influencers, bloggers and email newsletters, and Hamer adds in some cynicism for good measure.
I should mention—associated with motherhood / parenting guilt—are questions around the behaviour of children and the extent to which parents are responsible. That’s also reflected in the relationships a couple of the lead characters (Cara and Alex in particular) have with their parents and the circumstances of their childhoods.
This would be a great bookclub book given bookclubs are predominantly frequented (online in the times of Coronavirus) by women. I’m sure many could relate to the predicaments of the characters here and understand the many challenges they’re facing.
The End of Cuthbert Close by Cassie Hamer was published in Australia by Harlequin Australia (Harper Collins) and is out now.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
PS. I was also tickled pink to see a quote by ‘moi’ about After The Party inside the book!