All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Those Pleasant Girls by Lia Weston

on May 3, 2017

Those Pleasant Girls
Lia Weston
Pan Macmillan AUS
2017, 327p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Evie Pleasant, nee Bouvier, is back in town. In a figure-hugging skirt, high heels and a pin-up hairdo, she’s unrecognisable from the wild child who waged war on Sweet Meadow in her youth.

She’s made a promise to herself: ‘No swearing. No drinking. No stealing. No fires.’

Trailing a reluctant 16-year-old daughter and armed with cake making equipment, Evie’s divorce and impending poverty has made her desperate enough to return to Sweet Meadow to seduce her former partner-in-crime and start again.

But the townsfolk have long memories and the renegade ex-boyfriend is now the highly-respected pastor. Evie’s cakes have a job to do.

Everything hasn’t exactly gone to plan lately in Evie Pleasant’s life. She’s finally divorcing her husband and while the settlement gets hammered out (something Gabe is being deliberately obstructive on) she’s taken their teenage daughter Mary and gone back to the house of her youth, left to her after the death of her mother. Turns out that Evie was quite a notorious figure around the small town of Sweet Meadow and some of those residents have long memories. Evie will have to make many apologies for fires, thefts and other childish pranks but she’s willing to do that in order to achieve her goal – seducing her childhood best friend who just now happens to be pastor of the local church.

Evie has had to reinvent herself….in with pencil skirts, heels and up-dos, out with lazy trackies and swearing. She has to prove that she’s worthy of the community and especially that she’s worthy of its pastor. Nathan might have been her partner in crime years ago but now he holds a position of responsibility in the community, leading a church that is struggling in both facilities and cashflow. Evie attempts to win over skeptical townfolk with her delicious baked treats, attempting to woo them to her side so that she might become more involved in the town. The only trouble is, whilst Nathan might’ve been a solid plan in her head, are they really even suited? And does Evie want to be this new version of herself forever?

I really enjoyed this book. Evie was such a fun character – a bit scatty at times and so focused on her “goal” that she often couldn’t see what was right in front of her face, but I do admire her for sucking up a lot of things and going back to a place that she knew wasn’t going to be easy. Evie seemed to have had quite a charmed life with her former husband (until the negative couldn’t be ignored anymore) but now she’s faced with starting over, attempting to provide for herself and Mary, who is also struggling to fit in. Evie joins committees, she thinks of fundraising ideas, she swallows her pride and applies for jobs in stores she once terrorised years ago.

I loved the character of Mary, Evie’s teenage daughter who has also had her life uprooted and had to move to a town where she recognises immediately that she will struggle to fit in. Evie wants her to make “girlfriends” but instead Mary falls in with other misfits Travis and Mini D. She finds herself harbouring a crush on Zach, the boyfriend of the head of the cliquey girls group and like most teenagers, doesn’t heed any of the warnings that come her way about him. That felt like such a genuine teenage experience though, in more ways than one. Mary is also struggling with her feelings for her father – she accepts his actions and behaviour are the reasons for why she is where she is but she also loves him and wants his attention and for him to be proud of her. At the same time, she is also irritated with herself for wanting that when it seems as though her father is living his own life with little regard for her wellbeing. He’s dragging the settlement out (for reasons that aren’t really explained) and doesn’t seem to be contributing to the cost of Mary’s care. Mary was quite a complex character, well fleshed out and with a sharp humour that I enjoyed. She had an unusual interest in horticulture (with a good background given for the reason for this) which gave her the opportunity to herself connect with a few members of the town. Mary was the sort of person who was always going to make a mistake but also be the stronger for it.

There’s a fair bit of quirk in this book and not all of it will work for everybody I don’t think – not all of it worked for me. But a huge amount of it did and I found it quite funny. Some of the characters are ridiculously over the top and very tongue in cheek but I enjoyed it. There’s a tiny sliver of sweet romance in there as well.

My only complaint is that I feel some things could’ve been a bit better fleshed out……Evie’s relationship with her parents, the resolution of her marriage to Gabe, just to name a couple. But overall I thought this was a nice easy read to pass an afternoon with a cast of fun characters.


Book #80 of 2017

Those Pleasant Girls is book #27 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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