Jenn J McLeod’s 2015 book, Season of Shadow and Light, was the first I’d read by the popular Aussie author. It started a little slowly for me but picked up its pace and I very much enjoyed the novel – ostensibly a romance I guess – with some family drama thrown in.
Her latest release, The Other Side of the Season is similarly themed, though perhaps weighs more heavily on the family saga than the romance this time around.
When offering to drive her brother to Byron Bay to escape the bitter Blue Mountain's winter, Sidney neglects to mention her planned detour to the small seaside town of Watercolour Cove.
Thirty-five years earlier, Watercolour Cove is a very different place. Two brothers are working the steep, snake-infested slopes of a Coffs Coast banana plantation. Seventeen-year-old David does his share, but the budding artist spends too much time daydreaming about becoming the next Pro Hart and skiving off with the teasing and tantalisingly pretty Tilly from the neighbouring property. His older brother, Matthew, has no time for such infatuations. His future is on the land and he plans to take over the Greenhill plantation from his father.
Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill plantation.
One stays - trapped on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is, until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what's wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and ...
there's another side to every story.
Despite my usual antipathy towards love and sex (and stuff) in books, I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the lack of romance in Sidney’s life. Of course the ‘why’ eventually becomes evident but I waited poised for the entry of a suitor nonetheless.
The plots unfold almost in parallel: as Sid and Jake arrive in Watercolour Cove; we simultaneously meet the wealthy Greenhill family and their neighbours on banana plantations in 1979.
It’s fairly obvious early on how history has played out and who was who in the 1979 – 2014 story arc. It was interesting nonetheless to learn more about the players and the secrets they kept. I think there’s also some commentary there on how decisions we make shape our lives BUT… it’s never too late to change direction and set a different course for happiness.
I inhaled much of this book – wanting to know more about Sidney and the unfolding family drama around her. But then things changed… *cue dramatic music*
As it happens my main qualm with the book isn’t really anything to do with the writing or characters… but rather that I just wasn’t happy with the direction the book took. It’s a very subjective thing of course but I just couldn’t believe how forgiving everyone was of one of the characters in particular. And yes, perhaps I am a grudge-holder?!
As a result I struggled with the switch in point of view in Part Two.
However, like I said, that’s just me and my ridiculous need for justice or karma or whatevs. Others may be entirely happy that a certain character who shall remain nameless, receives a chance at redemption.
Whereas I got to page 358 and wanted to throw the book across the room. As it seemed wrong. And yes… I know bad things do sometimes happen. Pffft!
You can assume then that the book was well written and characters so beautifully developed I loved some and despised others – enough to want to throw the book across the room.
Of course I’m sure I’ll move on from this latest misfortune – indeed my tears have dried; and sobbing receded.
I’ve also already forgiven McLeod and am keen to see what she offers up next.
The Other Side of the Season by Jenn J McLeod was published in Australia on 1 May 2016 by Simon & Schuster.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.