By Josephine Moon
ISBN: 978 1 92526 614 6
Allen and Unwin (2018)
Josephine Moon writes thoughtful and emotional novels about women who are past the first flush of youth, and who need or want significant change in their lives. “Three Gold Coins” continues her exploration of these themes, although her central character is placed in a situation a little further removed from most readers’ experience than usual.
Lara Foxleigh has come to Italy for a holiday – although it soon becomes clear to us that her trip may not be solely because she wanted a holiday – and is revelling in the experience. Within days, she offers to help an old man struggling among the crowds around the Trevi Fountain. Before she knows it, she’s taken a job as his carer.
Lara’s head is spinning: a new country, a new home, a new job – and maybe a new love. Lara throws herself into the opportunities presented to her. It’s wonderful. Until the reasons she left Brisbane so abruptly erupt in a dangerous and potentially soul-crushing way.
Tuscany provides a beautiful background to this story, exotic but at the same time familiar, if not from personal experience, from movies and documentaries. The heart of this story is the people, and despite the “language barrier”, Moon presents a cast of believable and engaging characters who’ll get most readers involved in their stories.
Many of Lara’s challenges are familiar and realistic. There is one big decision from her past which frankly seemed a little soap operatic – not so much the decision, as the way it was executed. Other than that – and it’s a small hiccup – readers will both sympathise and empathise with Lara, recognise her problems, and perhaps wish they had the courage to make the sorts of decisions she does.
I like that Moon focuses on women with a bit of maturity. Lara’s not old by any means, being barely in her 30s, but nor is she floundering in the youthful insecurity of her 20s. Lara has lived a bit, made decisions (good and bad), and is in a position to make lifechanging decisions for herself. This is typical of Moon’s main characters, and is one reason I’d recommend searching out her back catalog.
Although each novel is distinctly different, the maturity of many of her female characters is a common thread, and adds considerable depth to her storylines.
Moon writes with sensitivity and care about delicate subjects, managing to be bluntly honest while still maintaining a light touch. “Three Gold Coins” is highly readable; you’ll engage with Lara quite quickly, and your emotional involvement will grow as the full scope of her dilemma becomes apparent.
Lara is not the only character, of course. Other characters come to life just as vividly, and each has their own concerns, worries and hopes. Again, readers will empathise with many of these. Some of the characters seem prickly to start with, and come into their own slowly over the course of the novel.
This is a warm novel. Although there is darkness, it’s concerned to a large extent with life, love and light. I recommend it to readers looking for a novel that’s involving and thoughtful, but not too dark.