Book review: The Sunnyvale Girls by Fiona Palmer
The Sunnyvale Girls is an Australian ‘rural romance’ featuring three generations of women.
The grandmother, Maggie, drops a bombshell on the family when she unwittingly reveals a secret.
Her daughter, Toni, a 53 year old single mum and farm manager with some self esteem issues, is devastated but Toni’s daughter, Flick (short for Felicity), is young and forgiving and enthusiastic, and soon Toni and Flick are travelling to investigate further. This gives Palmer the chance to set the book in regional Italy as well as Western Australia, so there’s enough charming descriptions of both areas (and their respective scrumptious food!) to keep readers entertained.
Each ‘girl’ gets to have her moment of romance in the novel.
I found Toni’s romantic plot much more satisfying than the other two. (I really need to get on my soapbox about publishers and their mindset that everyone wants a young 20-something heroine. It simply isn’t the case.) I felt that Palmer fleshed out the ‘older’ character Toni’s romance with more care than the others. In fact, I would maintain that she merely ticked the publisher’s boxes with Flick’s romance especially. I found myself often skimming over its details and failed to become emotionally involved. Maggie’s too became a bit predictable and humdrum after a while.
I should explain that even though Maggie is obviously an older woman, her romance is told via flashbacks from when she is a teenager. Personally, I would have cut out the flashbacks completely and simply used alternatives to explaining Maggie’s plot. I did enjoy the historical details though and must admit to shedding a tiny tear at her plot’s resolution.
Overall, I did enjoy this book, but I’m yet to be completely sold on the Australian rural romance genre (or, as it’s now being referred to, much to my amusement, ‘chook lit’).
If you do like the genre, I would highly recommend it though. Palmer’s style is easy to read and I can’t fault her research or authenticity. 4/5