Book Club: The Woman Next Door

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Author: Liz Byrski
ISBN: 978-0-74353-493-9
RRP: $32.99

Liz Byrski is a talented West Australian author who I have not read nearly enough of. The standout of The Woman Next Door for me is definitely the characters. Byrski takes a group of ordinary every day neighbours and allows us into their lives, but this group of neighbours are not like the groups of main characters that you will find in most books. The Woman Next Door focuses on a group of aging neighbours who have shared a street for decades.

Many women’s fiction books are about women in their late twenties through to their forties, that I have read, so I found it really refreshing to read The Woman Next Door about a group of neighbours fast approaching the end of their sixties and beyond. Characters who are facing retirement, empty nests, a loss of relevancy in the modern playing field of their career.

The problems and challenges faced by these characters are not the ones I often find in my women’s fiction and I loved it. The fear of growing old alone, the fear of finding love again as you approach 70, the fear of approaching dementia, the fear of being replaced as a sought-after speaker on the academic circuit and the fear of the procession of funerals as you say goodbye to loved ones.

Polly, Joyce, Helen and Stella and their families have been neighbours on Emerald Street for decades and formed a bond that goes beyond friendship. Helen and her husband Dennis moved out of Emerald Street a few years ago to an apartment in Fremantle. they still catch up but things just aren’t the same.

the woman next door

There are big life changes happening for all of the characters and it was refreshing to watch these very different characters come to terms with growing old. Joyce and Mac have been happily married for over 40 years and now they are embarking on a year of living apart. Mac wants to spend time in the house they bought for their retirement and Joyce isn’t ready for that yet, now that her responsibilities to every one else have diminished she can throw herself into something just for her. She’s not sure what yet but living alone and spending time with herself is sure to help her sort it out.

Polly is in Scotland for a speaking engagement when she meets a fellow speaker in a hotel evacuation, they end up exchanging email addresses and embarking on a get to know you in cyberspace conversation.

Meanwhile at home Stella, star of the small screen and stage, is returning from her second retirement for a role reprisal in the reinvention of soap Cross Currents, as a spirit. Now in her eighties, Stella is starting to have issues with her memory and all her friends are growing concerned.

Helen and Dennis are finding that the smaller, modern apartment on the river is not what they were expecting and Helen is not coping with how far from her expectations the move has been.

Byrski’s characters are authentic and relatable as they share their lies with us; their hopes, their fears and their friendships. This book is entertaining and heartbreaking, it could be any one of us and I loved it. The characters, the setting and the beautiful little community these families have built on Emerald Street, and the way the circle of life completes and renews as the story closes.

A must read for everyone. Thanks for a wonderful story Liz Byrski.

Thanks to Pan MacMillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Woman Next Door so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

The Woman Next Door is available now through Pan MacMillan, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

Also, if you want to join the Pan Macmillan Book Club they send a monthly newsletter with their featured book club titles and a chance to win books, as well as links to discussion questions and exclusive content.

The Woman Next Door is book #34 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.

Liz Byrski can be found on Facebook and her Website.

12 thoughts on “Book Club: The Woman Next Door

  1. Thanks as usual Michelle looks a really intriguing book, I haven’t read any of Liz Byrski’s novels but will definitely look out for this one.

  2. I can’t wait to read Liz’s new book but for the moment, my copy that I bought is sitting next to my bag to be whisked away to Hawaii and keep me entertained while other half is at golf.

  3. Thank you for the opportunity to read Liz’s latest book The Woman Next Door. I hadn’t read anything by her for quite a while and was so pleased to find that she has not lost her ability to tell a great story.

    I love the fact that Liz writes about situations that we can all relate to. There is a glut of books that feature 20, 30 & 40 year old out there, but very little that feature mature people at the end of their working life and in retirement.

    The houses on Emerald Street have been occupied by the same neighbours for years, they were all close, their children played together, and they even had gates put inbetween their side fences so they could just pop in! But life has gone on, and many years have passed.

    Polly is single and is a screenwriter and travels a lot, she also keeps an eye on Stella next door who is much older and has been coaxed out of retirement to reprieve her role in a popular soap opera on TV. Life is becoming more difficult for Stella as her memory is fading and she is constantly getting into trouble, but she has Polly to help her cope. Polly is also hoping that love hasn’t totally eluded her when she meets Leo whilst overseas.

    Mac and Joyce have raised their children and are at a bit of a crossroads in life, Mac wants to be on his own and Joyce is looking to her next stage of life and embarks upon a course of study with the prospect of running English classes to new migrants from home.

    Helen and Dennis sold their house and moved to an upmarket townhouse by the sea, but both have been regretting that decision ever since and miss the friendship of their neighbours. The problem is that neither of them have told each other about their thoughts.

    The stories about these people are beautifully told and very thought provoking. They could be your neighbours or friends. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it to readers of Women’s Fiction or Life-lit.

  4. What a glorious book. I loved every part of “The Woman Next Door,” from the beautiful and appealing cover with the lovely garden scene and the raised lettering to the last word. I’ve been a Liz Byrski fan since being fortunate enough to read “In The Company of Strangers” courtesy of Beauty and Lace and I was delighted to be selected for her new book. I know of few authors who consistently bring us wonderful characters who are also authentic. The characters are real people who are realistically and sensitively portrayed. Never does Liz use the story for sensationalism or bind the story into anything unrealistic. You end her books with a sigh – loving every word. Liz takes us on a journey but when we have finished that journey the characters stay with you for a long time to come.

    The wonderful bonds of friendship, of acceptance of life in all its stages and the beauty of accepting ourselves and others for who we and they are is something special. Liz Byrski manages that specialness with such dignity and insight. There is not one character who is not “authentic.” Add that she is Australian and prepared to look beyond the “ordinary” and you have a brilliant author who will quickly become one of your favourites. Few people can take an everyday setting, portray it as it is in “real life” and leave you thrilled to have met most of the characters. Liz Byrski’s ability to do this is magical.

    I can’t thank Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan Australia enough for allowing me to be part of this fabulous Book Club. I now look forward to Liz’s next book. It is indeed rare and very special to know you won’t be disappointed in an author’s next book.

  5. The Woman Next Door, is about different people who live or have once lived on Emerald Street, which is a fictional place in Fremantle. The story is full of interesting and rich characters who opose traditional expectations about what older characters should be like. I like the sounds of Emerald Street, it seems to be a caring place, where neighbours call in and out of each others’ houses, and gates connect backyards to join them together.

    At the beginning of the book, there are introductions to four households; Joyce and Mac who are experimenting with alternative ways of living. Then there is Dennis and Helen, who have moved from Emerald street, to a beautiful apartment , Polly, a writer who meets a man while a fire evacuation in the hotel she is staying in, and Stella, an elderly lady who is a well known actress, but her mind is starting to let her down.

    I found this book really entertaining, interesting and fun. I liked how different the characters are yet all bounded by memories, pain, love and laughter. A feel good book that I have recommended to friends.

  6. The Woman Next Door by Liz ByrskiI is an inspiring read with an array of great character’s that I could easily relate to. As the years have pass the residents of Emerald Street have become all very close to each other building some long lasting friendships. Helen and Dennis along with Joyce and Mac encounter new changes and challenges while the kids have left home.
    You experience a long distance relationship fascinations and experiences that come with it.
    People’s behaviour can be concerning and sometimes it is up to us to recognise this, step in and help a situation.

    Liz Byrski portrays a beautiful place, people and scene of Emerald Street along with special characters that you will become quickly attached to. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the tremendous opportunity to read and review “The Woman Next Door” by Liz ByrskiI that left me smiling.

  7. What a fun book to read! Looking in on different families and couples living in one street is a fun and interesting one. From the beginning you are introduced to each of the main houses and bond with them almost immediately. Their stories are told without embellishment but with honesty and realism that keeps you hooked as you can understand that these could be real people living in real homes in real streets, perhaps just around the corner from yours.

    Liz writes with a style that is both honest and fun, drawing you into their hopes, dreams, realities and challenges. I love how their stories are weaved together and are supported by one another in a neighborhood that is reminiscent of yesteryear.

    This was a fun and enjoyable read which will entertain readers regardless of their preferred genre.

  8. The Woman Next Door is such a well written novel. When it arrived I instantly took to the cover as it’s so bright and welcoming.
    The story is about a group of friends/families who live on the same street in a town in Fremantle, the friends have grown and seen each other through a small lifetime, now as they’re aging things are changing. At first I had trouble focusing as it switches between the characters but after a few chapters I got my bearings and started to take to the characters. I especially loved Stella and her story, her life and the cards she was delt toward the end – this made me see her condition from the inside which hit home.
    There were some twists that I didn’t see coming and threw me (I love that in a book)!
    The way Liz has taken a group of normal everyday people/friends and turned this book into a good read is great, I haven’t read anything quite like this before I think that’s the best part about being in this bookclub.
    Thanks again Beauty & Lace + Pan Macmillan

  9. Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me this book to read.

    The Woman Next Door is a story of friendship and love.

    Helen and Dennis, Polly, Joyce and Mac and Stella all lived along side each other in Emerald Street for many years, starting families together and sharing their lives.

    Life has moved on and Helen and Dennis have already left the street and are living not far away but far enough to create change.

    For those friends that lived side by side things are the same but a little different now, their children have grown and left home, grandchildren welcomed and life has carried them along.

    The Woman Next Door is a book where you feel warm and welcomed into the story.

    One thing that I loved about this book is that the characters are not 20 somethings but more mature aged women who still have a story to tell.
    Families and lives that we can identify with.
    The story lines deal with aging and how we deal with it and are written with grace and honesty.

    The characters each have their own stories and these are woven into and around each other and are come together into a wonderful complete story.

  10. Liz Byrski has written “The Woman Next Door” as if she has you peering inside the windows of each of the characters and their lives. The lives are all different but all have an intermingled friendship and caring nature of neighbours of times gone past. As with many of our own lives this book explores how over the years the residents of Emerald Street have become very close and have endured and shared losses and achievements. This story also explores how each family unit has dealt with the empty nest situation with some interesting and entertaining ways these lives are playing out. While some is not the conventional manner in which others believe you should enter the next part of your life it is very well written that allows the reader to actually understand and feel the situation. I actually found this part of the story to be very enlightening and progressive and refreshing. I was glad this story was based on more mature characters and also strong characters that stood their ground and stuck to their decisions in the face of judgment by many. It deals with many disappointments and how we deal with the cards that life deals us with a dignity and maturity which is threaded through the book as an entire story. Not your average story but one that is for the mature reader who likes to think about things and not offer judgement. Another perfect read thank you Liz Byrski and Beauty and Lace I loved it.

  11. Thanks again for the opportunity to read another good book. I found it to be a very honest and thought provoking portrayal of the interesting characters we get to meet. It’s a story of friendships enduring across the years, through joys and disappointments and also acceptance of their differences. I really liked the character of Stella as well as Polly’s brother and his partner. Overall a very enjoyable read.

  12. The story is full of interesting characters who opose traditional expectations about what older characters should be like.,it reminds me a little of ramsey st in neigbours where neighbours where they call in and out of each others’ homes,
    it was a good read

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