Author: Meredith Jaffé
The Fence is a suburban drama blown out of all proportion, it takes an up close and personal look at neighbourly disputes and at times I thought it got a little over the top but I have never really had any trouble with neighbours.
It took me a little while to get involved in the story, but I think that’s my issue at the moment, because it’s not the first time recently. Once I started to get involved in the story it really did start to grow on me. The characters were, different; they weren’t easy to like but they also weren’t easy to dislike as you got to know them.
Gwen Hill is a long time resident of Green Valley Avenue, she moved in as a newlywed and was one of the first (possibly THE first) couples to move into the newly built street. She became very close to her next-door neighbours, and some of the other couples in the street. They raised their families together and built strong and lasting life-long friendships. Gwen is very green thumbed and loves her garden, her neighbours were not as interested in working outside so Gwen did their landscaping, and a lot of the upkeep.
The death of her best friend and neighbour hits Gwen hard, and when the house is then put on the market it only makes the transition harder. Gwen misses Babs terribly and is struggling with the huge change to her routine and lifestyle, they had been through so much together. It is a huge shock to her system when a four wheel drive pulls in next door and out pile a family of six.
Gwen had seemed to be quite a neighbourly older lady but I soon started to lose sympathy for her. On first hearing that the house was going on the market she got quite narky, and though it seemed a little over the top you could understand it because she had been hoping that the house would stay in the family; unlikely as that may have been.
The minute the four-wheel drive pulls in next door we start to see a judgemental side of Gwen that is less than desirable, and it only gets worse from there.
The new neighbours are Francesca and Brandon and their four young children, all under 4. They seem like a perfect little family, until we start to get to know them a little better and find out what brought them to Green Valley Avenue.
Gwen takes great pride in her garden, and the one in the neighbouring house which was also a labour of her love, so finding out that the new neighbours plan to completely re-do it breaks her heart.
Green Valley Avenue is quite an open cul-de-sac, with no fences out the front. There is a decorative divider of crab apple trees and hedges between Gwen and the neighbours, it has been lovingly tended through the years to create the perfect shape.
Francesca and Brandon want to fence their front yard, pulling down the crab apples, to keep their children safe. This marks the beginning of a dispute that quickly escalates beyond all belief.
The further I got into this story, and the more outrageous I felt this dispute got, the more I got to know the characters. I started to wonder how much of this dispute actually had anything to do with the fence, or the neighbours, and how much had to do with the characters own circumstances.
I really enjoyed this book once I got involved, and I was so entranced by the goings on that I had to find out what would be next. By the second half of the book there seemed to be lots of paranoia going on, and it was totally misplaced.
There was much more to the story than what was on the surface, you really needed to pay attention on all levels because some of the twists were a little unexpected.
The Fence is the story of two families facing uncertain futures and major upheavals; both of them finding themselves in completely unfamiliar situations and struggling a little with how to adapt to their new realities.
The female leads were quite sympathetic characters, when you got to know them. There were times I found them selfish and judgemental but as I delved into their lives and gained a better understanding of them I realised how they may have come to the reactions they ended up with.
I loved the ending, it showed that the journey through adversity and out the other side often sees you a stronger person, sometimes part of a stronger couple, and having learned lessons you otherwise would have missed.
Interesting, amusing and a little over the top The Fence is neighbourhood drama like you will hope you never face, I certainly hope never to face it. Fences do tend to account for the vast majority of neighbourhood disputes so sit back, have a giggle and hope your fencing dramas never reach these proportions.
The Fence is book #47 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.
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