BOOK CLUB: A Place Near Eden

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A Place Near Eden by Nell Pierce is a powerful mystery drama mixed with the intensity of relationships and finding your way to what is the truth.

Matilda Holman, or Tilly known by her family and friends, is adapting to life with her new foster
brother Sem. Her parents chose him to live with them which made him extra special to Tilly.

Sem was angry and would run away often, he would not go far but Tilly’s parents would worry
and stay out late looking for him. Sometimes he would return but other times they needed to
call the police to find him.

The family dynamics change, and Tilly’s parents separate. Tilly, her mum, and Seth moved to a
new house. There they meet Celeste who lives next door with her mum. A bit older than Tilly,
Celeste is full of confidence and speaks her mind.

Sem starts to date Celeste which Tilly doesn’t like as she has strong feelings toward him. Celeste easily manipulates and influences Tilly and knows she can get her to do what she wants.

When Tilly looks back on her teenage years she is afflicted by memories – Sem disappearing all
the time and someone taking him away, and Celeste causing arguments and telling her what to do.

But there were long days at the swimming pool, the three of them hanging out so there must
have been some good times amongst the bad.

Five years down the road Tilly moves to Melbourne with her mum and puts her childhood to
rest, tucking her memories away of Sem and Celeste. One night at a party Tilly runs into Celeste and the three of them reconnect.

Eventually, Celeste and Tilly move to the coast near Eden and share a house together, with Sem soon following.

The morning after a night at the pub, Tilly wakes up hungover with no recollection of the night.
Sem is gone for good and there has been a devastating accident but who is responsible? Tilly
as a narrator is unreliable, and this gives readers the freedom to make their own predictions. Is
Tilly’s story real, or has it been created by manipulation?

The layers are peeled back one by one and keep the reader engaged in the mystery. It makes
you feel like you’re witnessing something you shouldn’t be in the relationship between the three.
It is one of the most interesting, strange, and truly depressing relationships I’ve ever

Nell Pierce does an excellent job of portraying the complexity of friendship dynamics
complicated by the demands of family life and upbringing defined by expectations and needs.
The plot is engaging and paced with great skill, moving between Tilly’s past and future to
expertly keep the reader always engaged.

I closed the book knowing I had just read a great novel. This truly is a gripping friendship drama,
and one that I could not put down. I highly recommend it.

Thank you, Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin, for the opportunity to read and review.

ISBN: 9781761066177
Copy courtesy of publisher: Allen & Unwin

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading A Place Near Eden by Nell Pierce. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

8 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: A Place Near Eden

  1. I usually have 2 or 3 books on the go at once and I guess it is a good indication of what I thought about A Place Called Eden , that I had to force myself to leave my other books and actually read this one. I found it really confusing as it was written so out of order. Usually, I can pick up a book and just start reading, but I really struggled to keep in my mind where I was up to each time I picked up this book and I found myself having to go back a few pages each time to catch up on where I’d left off.

  2. I was really excited to reah ‘A place called Eden’ and I was not disappointed.

    This is a story about Matilda as she reflects back on her life, her childhood and friends, and her less than normal family. When Matildas family take in Sem after his grandmother dies as a foster child, Matildas looks to befriend her new foster brother who has had his whole life upended. Unfortunately Sems placement into the family widens the cracks in Matildas parents marriage resulting in the marriage breaking down. Thankfully, Celeste, Matildas friend steps in to take over.

    This story is carefully crafted with manipulation, untruths, and mystery but the question you will ask yourself is ‘who really is the victim here?’

  3. Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin I was lucky enough to review “A Place Near Eden” by Nell Pierce.

    A story of Matilda, her foster brother Sem and her best friend Celeste. They grew up a kids spending days at the swimming pool, going to school together and hanging out together while living in the same share house and just being kids. Things then changed when Sem was taken away from his foster family and Matilda and her mum pack up and move away.

    Many years later Matilda comes across Celeste at a party they are both at. It is here that Matilda finds out that Celeste has been in contact with Sem for years and they are on and off dating.

    Celeste and Matilda decide to go to the coast to house sit for the summer. Sem comes and goes as he pleases and Celeste basically is a manipulator and Matilda does what she always says. Sem and Celeste have a volatile on and off relationship which is rather chaotic at times.

    Celeste ends up pregnant with Sem’s baby and after a night at the pub, Celeste and Sem have a huge fight. Matilda cannot recall the events from the end of the night before and it is the next morning when she wakes that Celeste informs Matilda of the disastrous events of the night before. Things then start to come very messy.

    The book is in 4 parts and you have Matilda telling you the story, later on it becomes evident that it is a story for Celeste and Sem’s baby to have to know the full story of what happened before he/she was born.

    This book definitely keeps you guessing and wanting to know more.

  4. Thanks to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen and Unwin I had the opportunity to read A Place Near Eden. The book tells the story of Matilda, Celeste and Sem,s friendship and relationships over a number of years – it shares the good, bad and ugly sides of these relationships and the subsequent chain of events that finds Sem gone from their lives for good. This book centres on family dramas and also has a touch of mystery about it. I give it 3***

  5. A Place Like Eden shows how unreliable the memory is. Are our memories truth or what we image they can be?
    Matilda remembers her childhood of hot sun, swimming, her neighbor Celeste and her foster brother Sem.
    Sem is a troubled teen who disappears often and then is taken away in a car.
    Matilda’s parents separate and she moves to Melbourne with her mother.
    She reconnects with Celeste and Sem.
    The long summer ahead is full of truths, lies, manipulations and the unreliability of the memories you may cling to of your childhood and the shocking outcome when the truth surfaces and the far reaching effects and life changing effects of these.
    This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea but it will make you question what is truth and what are factual childhood memories.

  6. I found this a difficult book to follow at times. To me the story did not flow, and I was confused at times as to who the story was being told to.
    The main character, Tilly, is telling the story, and at times, the same story but with a different ‘offender’.
    I wonder if it may appeal more to a teenage reader, as it is definitely a story of life at that age, and all of the confusion and challenges life holds at that age. I persevered, to find the ending just wasn’t really an ending, and no question was answered. It was as though the reader was to be left just left wondering.
    I’m sure some will find it a great read, but although the blub sounded fabulous, the story itself was not to my liking.
    Thanks Beauty & Lace and Allen & Unwin, for the opportunity to read A Place Near Eden.

  7. Neil Pearce’s book A Place Near Eden definitely delivered on suspenseful, eerie and unreliable narrator fiction but without the twist or big reveal at the end. The characters are universally flawed and unlikeable and the end just kind of petered out and left me feeling sad and flat. Very effectively examining the dynamics of relationships and power differentials, the desire to please and be noticed, manipulation and motivation, we follow Matilda’s journey from child of an unstable home to young adult adrift in the world. I really felt so sorry for her character. Powerful writing about difficult subject matter.
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for this opportunity.

  8. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for letting me read and review A Place Near Eden by Nell Pierce.

    At first I found this book difficult to follow as it is spoken from the third person but the timelines are different in each chapter/part. Once I got into it though I was very intrigued and wanted to know what would happen.

    The relationships portrayed in this book are all very different and a little confusing. I found Matilda (Tilly) to be quite naive and persuadable and trusting especially within the friendship of Celeste.

    Overall this book gets 3.5star rating from me. I would recommend this book to those that are fans of mystery, drama and suspense. It kept me guessing until the end.

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