Australian author Ashley Hay comes to the blog today with a lovely woman’s fiction title: a tale of two lives and the little Brisbane home that connects them. Narrated by Fiona Hardingham, please read on for my review of
A Hundred Small Lessons
If you are expecting a book full of angst and huge, dramatic revelations, this is not the book for you. This is a story of two women and the intersection of their lives with the help of one house. Elsie had lived in her home for sixty years: the centerpiece of much of her life, laden with memories and lavished with care and all those tiny touches that makes your house your home. When a fall sends her to hospital, and her son has arranged for the sale of her home, that chapter in her little house has come to an end, and she is reconciling her life now with what it had been: the familiarity, comfort, memories, and independence that are now forever changed in her new circumstance. New to the little Brisbane house is Lucy and her husband and young son, Tom. Just having the sense of Elsie and her family around her in tiny touches left behind brings her some comfort and confidence. A family was raised here successfully – there is no reason she shouldn’t have a similar outcome.
Through individual moments, Elsie recounts her life and struggles often as Lucy is in the thick of things: the one thing helping Lucy along is the thought of Elsie, the sense of her that she finds in every room when she quietens and listens for her. A lovely sense of ‘memory keeping’ in the house, one that Lucy connects to almost instantly, and allows herself to wonder about those who were there first. The small pieces left behind serve as guideposts for Lucy as she struggles with her husband’s remove frequent absences, little Tom’s into-everything toddler self, and her own feelings of a marriage not quite working, at least not as she hoped it would. Unprepared for the isolation and changes that the move and a child would bring to their marriage, it’s Elsie that becomes Lucy’s best friend in absentia, her guidepost and her teacher as she learns to navigate marriage, motherhood and all of the challenges, big and small, that happen in a life.
Narration for this story is provided by Fiona Hardingham, a performance that not only carries the correct accent but has a smoothness in delivery that carries the story softly forward. Never over-reaching for emotion or a moment, Hardingham allows the story to take wing, occasional flights of fancy and moments of harsh reality all treated with the deference and respect needed and required by the writing. A lovely listen that transports to the moment and place, and allows the story to proceed at a pace that allows complete absorption.
A wonderful story that is unlike others I have read, but completely refreshing in the unique moments, flights of fancy and harder truths faced all while being surprisingly angst-free, just detailing lives and their points of parallel and intersection in ways that feel natural and plausible.
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 4.5
Title: A Hundred Small Lessons
Author: Ashley Hay
Genre: Antipodes, Contemporary Woman's Fiction, Dual Timeline, Setting: Australia
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Published by: Atria Books, Simon & Schuster Audio
Published on: 28 November, 2017
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 49 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible
Through the richly intertwined narratives of two women from different generations, Ashley Hay, known for her “elegant prose, which draws warm and textured portraits as it celebrates the web of human stories” (New York Times Book Review) weaves an intricate, bighearted tale of the many small decisions—the invisible moments—that come to make a life.
When Elsie Gormley leaves the Brisbane house in which she has lived for more than sixty years, Lucy Kiss and her family move in, eager to establish their new life. As they settle in, Lucy and her husband Ben struggle to navigate their transformation from adventurous lovers to new parents, taking comfort in memories of their vibrant past as they begin to unearth who their future selves might be. But the house has secrets of its own, and the rooms seem to share recollections of Elsie’s life with Lucy.
In her nearby nursing home, Elsie traces the span of her life—the moments she can’t bear to let go and the places to which she dreams of returning. Her beloved former house is at the heart of her memories of marriage, motherhood, love, and death, and the boundary between present and past becomes increasingly porous for both her and Lucy.
Over the course of one hot Brisbane summer, two families’ stories intersect in sudden and unexpected ways. Through the richly intertwined narratives of two ordinary, extraordinary women, Ashley Hay uses her “lyrical prose, poetic dialogue, and stunning imagery” (RT magazine) to weave an intricate, bighearted story of what it is to be human.
“Readers who loved the quiet introspection of Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge will enjoy the detailed emotional journeys of Hay’s characters. Their stories will linger long after the final page is turned.” (Library Journal)
A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: