I’d not read any of Susan Johnson’s previous novels, but am familiar with her writing (via her day job as a journalist / feature writer) and follow her on Twitter. I had her latest novel, The Landing, pegged as a romance—a genre I don’t usually enjoy—but was drawn to the blurb which offered a preview of the wry tone which weaved its way throughout the novel.
Jonathan Lott is confused. His wife has left him for a woman and he doesn’t like living alone. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her? There’s a lot happening at The Landing, where Jonathan has his beach house, and he’s about to find out how much love matters.
Interestingly, I enjoyed the former and disliked the latter. Both were well-written but with a limited plot arc it very much came down to the characters. Those in Indian Summer interested me and those in There Must Be Some Mistake managed to simultaneously annoy the crap out of me and bore me to tears.
The Landing falls somewhere in between. Much of the pace was a tad slow for me although I didn’t necessarily mind the meandering style of storytelling.
That’s not to say it was boring; however most of the ‘action’ takes place via memories and snippets of characters’ pasts. Little is relayed to us in present tense. The pacing also felt a little off in parts as some scenes (set in the present) were drawn-out and others almost offered via quick recap.
We’re mostly in the heads of Penny and Jonathan though I probably related most to Penny as it felt like we were most privy to her life, including her relationship with her mother Marie. The snippets of Marie’s life were particularly interesting and gave us some insight into the difficult person she’d become.
But I felt we head-hopped a little too much and I struggled to find any of the characters (other than Giselle – whose purpose I never understood) particularly endearing. Johnson did a good job of communicating her characters’ introspection so I probably would have liked to have seen more of this from fewer people.
I read an interesting interview with Johnson on the popular book blog, Book’d Out; and as someone who’s also lived away and overseas for some time, I could very much relate to some of the points she makes about things which typify the well-off and well-educated in South East Queensland. Indeed her wry tone and (occasionally sarcastic) observations were the most enjoyable part of the novel for me.
The Landing by Susan Johnson was published in Australia via Allen & Unwin in late August 2015.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.