Author: Tricia Stringer
Publication Date: 24 September 2018
Publisher: HQ Fiction
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Tricia Stringer is a favourite Australian author of mine and we have featured her a few times for the book club. Table For Eight is her latest release and a change of pace for the author who deftly weaves sweeping historical sagas and rural romances with skill.
Table For Eight is a contemporary character based tale that takes place on a cruise ship, and is enough to make anyone in need of a holiday jealous.
This is a very character driven tale with a large cast of leads, most of whom I loved. Past releases have proven that Tricia has no trouble juggling a large cast and ensuring we get to know and connect with them, Table For Eight is no different.
Ketty Clift is a seasoned traveller who has been on many cruises throughout her long life, quite a few on the Diamond Duchess. The news that the Duchess is being retired prompts her to book one last cruise, at a time that she needs to be focusing on her business, Ketty Clift Couture. Ketty is an interesting character and I must admit I found her fascinating. Ketty is older, a veteran cruiser, a business owner, a single lady and she’s a fixer. There is something inherent in her nature that is nurturing and just wants people to find their happiness and feel special. Her business has been built based on the philosophy of making her clients feel special.
There’s an interesting dynamic with Ketty and the maître d’, they have cruised together in the past, and I just can’t put my finger on what the story is with them. They do know each other relatively well and the maître d’ has control of the dining room, and the seating plan. He has seated Ketty on a much larger table than usual, with a group of passengers in dire need of a helping hand.
I found Ketty to be a lovable and caring character but she doesn’t always seem that way to her table mates, they find her to be a bit nosy and even meddling. I tend to think that the way characters view Ketty has a lot to do with what they might be trying to hide.
Table for Eight takes us inside the cruise ship with its luxury and pampering and Stringer paints a vivid picture of life on board. It certainly left me considering the idea of a short break sailing the seas.
Ketty has quite a few worries of her own this cruise but is determined to do what she can for her tablemates, and what a mixed bag they are. Christine is the character I feel I should identify the most with, she’s the busy mother with children at home, but she’s probably the character I liked the least. All of the characters at Ketty’s table are facing troubles; from grief, loneliness and financial worries to troubled relationships.
Ketty is a veteran cruiser so many of those on her table eventually look to her for advice and guidance. I loved reading of the way she was able to become a fount of wisdom for them all but what I loved the most was her desire to help out all of the communities they visit on the cruise; especially if their economies have suffered due to weather events or the like.
This cruise really does seem to be an escape of a sort for most of the characters, even if that wasn’t the express reason for booking. Not everyone found what they were looking for but they all found what they needed the most; closure, second chances, new beginnings and a new sense of self.
Ketty Clift Couture was a fascinating business model, Ketty built the business on her own and even in 2018 it has no real online presence. She has always prided herself on custom making garments and giving customers the personal touch; which isn’t possible online. She does have a basic outdated website but before going away she allowed the new shop assistant to organise a new web presence, which leads to a complete makeover in her absence. In these times of internet shopping and instant gratification it is no wonder Ketty Clift Couture is in a lean time but a little creativity and nothing is impossible.
The characters are all quite troubled and they are drawn well, in all their complexities. Christine was the character I liked the least, she seemed to be very self-centred and greedy. The more I read and the better I got to know her, the more I could understand her and see where she was coming from. Not that it was quite enough to completely redeem her, but it certainly went a long way to explaining her behaviour even if it didn’t excuse it.
Maître d’ Carlos has brought together a very mixed bag for Ketty’s table and it really is interesting to contemplate how he could manage to do that, how does he know enough about passengers before they even board to know who needs a little Ketty nurturing to help them find what they need and place them on her table.
Table for Eight was a book that captivated me start to finish; if it wasn’t the wishing myself on board for a relaxing and pampered break from reality, it was connecting with the characters and hoping they managed to find what they were looking for. Definitely a book well worth the read and I look forward to sharing it with the cruise lovers of my family.
Table For Eight is book #43 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.