Author: Victoria Purman
Nobody But Him is the first of the Boys of Summer Trilogy and Purman’s debut, quite an achievement I think to be signed for a trilogy straight up – Kudos to you Victoria and I can not wait for the next two. Can I just say that I know who I want the second one to centre on…
This book is set in a fictional town on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, an hour or so from my place, so I was very interested in the location. Many of the places mentioned along the coast are familiar to me, of course Adelaide is featured as well and it’s always exciting to read about places close to home. Especially when they are as pretty as the coastline along the Fleurieu Peninsula – Victor Harbor, Port Elliot, Goolwa. Reading Nobody But Him really made me want to get in the car and take a trip to the beach, it will certainly be on the cards one day soon.
Enough about the beautiful windswept beaches of the fictional Middle Point, now on to the story. What did surprise me a little with this one is that it’s set in winter, being set beachside and the first of the Boys of Summer trilogy I would have expected a much warmer time of year. Though a winter setting did help demonstrate some of the points raised in the narrative.
Our heroine in Nobody But Him is Julia Jones, a native of Middle Point who took off for the bright lights of Melbourne immediately after finishing school and breaking the heart of Summer fling Ryan Blackburn in the process. Julia grew up feeling stifled in the small town and always feeling she was looked down upon by the influx of wealthy Adelaide tourists who flocked to town in the warmer months. From Julia’s point of view they came down and took over the town, had their fun and made their mess always heading back to their moneyed lives and leaving the locals to clean up after them.
Julia always knew that the town relied on the influx of tourist dollars each year to help businesses survive but she didn’t like being laughed at for not wearing the name brands and working over summer while they were all out living it up. She wanted to be something more than just a small town local, life holds more promise and she wants to do something meaningful so it’s off to uni she goes at the first opportunity and never looks back – or goes back.
Fifteen years later Julia finds she has to go home to pack up her mother’s house and decide what to do with it. She is only back in town long enough to do what she has to do and spend some time with her childhood best friend before winging it back to Melbourne and her successful career in Crisis Management. Early on she gets roped into helping out in the local pub where best friend Lizzie works because a waitress calls in sick.
The first customer interaction we are aware of is with a table of those wealthy Adelaidians Julia remembers from childhood and to top it all off one of them is none other than Ryan Blackburn. Julia is professional in her dealings with them but when the snark keeps coming at her she can’t help but retaliate with laying the civility on a little thick and getting herself sacked.
The two decide the only way to exist in the same town, even for a short time, is to stay out of one another’s way; which proves a little difficult once they realise they are neighbours.
Julia is famous for making rash generalisations, and jumping to conclusions, which causes her an awful lot of grief as the story progresses and she discovers just how wrong she has been. It seems she has not only been wrong about the people around her but her time back in Middle Point is showing her an entire side of herself that she never got to know. Her move to Melbourne and the building of her career has made her into someone, someone she’s proud of and someone that the wealthy come to in times of trouble. To a large extent she has become the person she felt so alienated by growing up but she can’t see that side of it. She just recognises that she’s become SOMEONE and that’s what she always wanted. Yes, sometimes it hurts that she’s so far from her best friend and she became so distanced from her mum, and she could never replace the boy she fell so hard for the summer after high school but all of that pales compared to the knowledge that she became SOMEONE.
Ryan was the arrogant wealthy tourist down for summers in Middle Point and he met Julia the summer he finished uni. The two met on the beach one day and had a summer romance which ended badly when Julia left for Melbourne. Ry ended up moving into the family firm and eventually taking over. The last five years he has worked damn hard on the company and it’s caused him to re-evaluate a lot in his life, which is why he bought the Middle Point Pub and the ‘ugliest house in town’.
In the fifteen years Julia has been gone the town has undergone some major changes. Many of the beachside shacks she remembers from her childhood have been razed to make way for steel and glass eyesores, million dollar beach houses rather than the unpretentious shacks she remembers. This is part of what’s making her decision so difficult, she can’t afford to keep her mother’s house because it’s getting old and the upkeep is prohibitive but she can’t bear to sell it to one of those out-of-towners that will just bulldoze it and build another monstrosity.
Ry and Julia find it impossible to avoid one another, especially considering he’s the boss of her best friend, and he does the neighbourly thing by offering to help Julia prepare the house. All the time they spend together bring things a little more clearly into focus for them and helps them begin to re-evaluate.
I love the story, I love that a connection over 15 years old remains so strong and I love the way Purman has told the small coastal town story. The story of little towns that rely on tourist dollars and the effect that has on the locals. I remember taking summer holidays to coastal NSW towns growing up and not really sparing a thought for the locals. It’s not that we were wealthy (far from it) but we would take the drive to the coast and the locals were just there, I guess it was just like all the strangers that surrounded me at home but somewhere else. Now some of my family live in those small coastal towns permanently and it’s lovely to know we can always visit. But this shows another side of that. These locals like their small peaceful town and uncrowded beaches then come summer the hordes descend and nothing is the same… but without that income some of the businesses would struggle to survive.
Nobody But Him was a great light Summer read and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Boys of Summer Trilogy.