Whenever You’re Ready by Trish Bolton is a bittersweet tale of family and friendships and of love and loss. I read this as my mother’s 80th birthday neared and was a little sad that there’s even any question about older women’s worth or how much living septuagenarians might have left.
And of course that’s the thing about age; 30, 50 or 70 seems old… until you’re there. And 10, 15, 20 seems young… unless you’re there. I recall finishing high school and looking at the year 8 students thinking we NEVER looked that young. And now I look at staff in stores and they look like they’re 12.Whenever You're Ready
by Trish Bolton
Published by Allen & Unwin
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
Lizzie is reeling from a decades-old discovery that changes everything she thought she knew about her friends, her family and her marriage.
Alice has always been the good-time girl, as charismatic presenting the weather on television as she is working as a life model. But decades of piecemeal gigs have left her with a safety net that is rapidly unravelling.
Meanwhile, Lizzie's perfectionist daughter Margot is realising that, despite having built herself a faultlessly curated life, she hasn't put her troubled past behind her as neatly as she thought she had.
The whole book offers a reminder of that old adage about ‘walking a mile in someone’s shoes’ before you judge them. And not assuming the ‘grass is greener’ anywhere you aren’t. There’s also an underlying theme of death and loss. It’s handled sympathetically but we’re reminded that we can’t force others to move on before they’re ready.
Unfortunately we only very briefly meet Claire here, but spend time with her through the eyes of her best friends Lizzie and Alice. They’re an interesting trio and Bolton takes us back to their meeting (Lizzie and Claire first before the inclusion of Alice) and then through the decades of their friendship and the roles they played – in their own lives (as mothers, professionals, wives and carers) – and those with each other, supporting each other through tragedies, illness and triumphs.
We also meet Jane (Claire’s daughter) and Margot (Lizzie’s daughter). We spend time with Margot in particular and learn that she and her mother have a difficult relationship, one which never recovered from the death of Margot’s brother and Lizzie’s young son decades before. It ended Lizzie’s marriage to her adulterous husband and, (interestingly – for me) even now she’s married with a child of her own Margot tends to favour her father and his new wife, forgetting his role in the disintegration of their family.
Claire’s death unearths an old secret and we learn those privy at the time weighed the ethical benefit of revealing the truth against the hurt such action would cause. And though blame is cast in the present, the quandary remains… reveal all or let it rest?
I appreciated that Bolton is able to reflect turning points in the lives of both Jane and Margot and Lizzie and Alice here. Two women in the early throes of adulthood but well and truly needing to make important decisions about their future; and then two older women who (in some ways) feel redundant but still have much to offer.
Although I very much liked the way this pans out I also liked that Bolton doesn’t necessarily require readers to see things as black or white. Rather there’s a lot of grey and a reminder that life can hold surprises and be messy.
** Given I’d assume the majority of bookclubs are comprised of women (I may be wrong!) I’d suggest this is an excellent bookclub read as there are some ethical dilemmas to consider, and readers might see themselves in some of the characters. **
Whenever You’re Ready by Trish Bolton will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin on 30 January 2024.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.