“She knows now that leaving a place you love isn’t the worst thing; it is arriving in the second place and having to live as if the first place has disappeared.”
– Stephanie Bishop, The Other Side of the World
Charlotte is struggling. With motherhood, with the changes marriage and parenthood bring, with losing the time and the energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, wants things to be as they were and can’t face the thought of another English winter.
A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you.’ Before she has a chance to realise what it will mean, Charlotte is travelling to the other side of the world.
Arriving in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light and slowly reveals that this new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs and how far she’ll go to find her way home . . .
The second book in my Stella Prize review is The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop. This was a very different read to The Natural Way of Things but no less emotional. Inspired by her grandparents, The Other Side of the World is a meditation on the idea of home.
It is the 1960’s and a young English couple emigrate to Australia with their two young girls. After the birth of her first daughter Lucie, Charlotte begins to lose herself within the depths of post-natal depression. Her husband Henry hopes that if they can avoid one more English winter, life will right itself. When Perth doesn’t turn out to be the utopia they expect, Charlotte and Henry’s fracturing relationship continues to take a hit.
This is a really wonderful book. The moment I started it, it reminded me of The Light Between Oceans with its hauntingly beautiful writing. I really love the way Bishop’s descriptions transported me to another time and place. The Other Side of the World is an interesting exploration of home, loss, motherhood and foreignness. Her characters are on a constant journey for love and happiness. Charlotte is bound within the claustrophobic nature of motherhood; her sense of self, her identity, are constantly changing, moving further and further from where she thinks she wants to go. The move from England only heightens her feelings of loss; for Charlotte, home is a very physical thing. Her homesickness is something Henry doesn’t understand… he likes the idea of ‘home’ yet doesn’t fully grasp it. Having spent most of his life in foreign places, Henry’s concept of home is loose, his love of people being what ties him to any place.
I really enjoyed this book. I was expecting it to be more… whimsical than it was. I wasn’t expecting a story that is at times quite stark in its descriptions and portrayal of Charlotte and Henry’s life. Bishop’s writing style is easy to follow and her language is really enjoyable! The Other Side of the World is a really lovely read!! Also, that cover… one of my favourites for 2016!
AUTHOR: Stephanie Bishop
PUB DATE: 30 June 2015