All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Amber And Alice by Janette Paul

on June 21, 2017

Amber And Alice
Janette Paul
Bantam (Penguin Random House AUS)
2017, 389p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Take a hilarious road trip into the Australian outback in this witty romantic comedy, with an enticing family mystery thrown in!

When Amber Jones wakes up in her sister Sage’s speeding car, with no idea how she got there (though the hangover is a clue), all she wants to do is go home. But Sage is convinced a road trip to Alice Springs will finally answer the burning question: who is Amber’s father? Because nine months before Amber’s birth, her late mother Goldie made the same trip . . .

Armed with just a name and Goldie’s diaries, Amber agrees to search for a man she’s never met in one of the world’s biggest deserts.

And that means spending two weeks in a convoy of four-wheel-driving tourists and camping in freezing desert nights. To make matters worse, her fellow travellers hate her and the handsome tour leader Tom thinks she’s an alcoholic.

But slowly the desert starts to reveal its secrets – and Amber must decide which horizon to follow…

I love road trip books – they’re an autobuy for me so when I read the blurb of this one I knew I had to get it. The thought of doing this sort of trip really intrigues me and it’s definitely something I wouldn’t mind doing in the future. But Amber, our main character, wakes up with a thumping hangover in a car with her sister, heading to a meeting point for a tour to Alice Springs. Despite declaring last night (under the influence) that she was up for it Amber is horrified and wants to leave immediately and make her way back to Sydney. Her sister Sage won’t hear of it though, begging Amber to stay on the tour, dangling a choice piece of information in front of her that this trip might lead to answers about her father, a man Amber has never met and has no information on other than his name.

Amber rather spectacularly lost her job after a drunken rant at an event the previous night so really she has no commitments. A childhood spent mostly on the road with her nomadic mother though has made Amber somewhat of a driven workaholic where she had goals and worked towards them. Her career is important to her and until her meltdown, which has gone “viral”, she’d been very successful in her chosen field. She wants to be looking for another job, not gallivanting around the country with her hippy sister….but the carrot of finding out more about her father is too hard to ignore.

Amber gets off on the wrong foot with pretty much everyone on the tour – she makes a less than ideal first impression and is bad tempered, her reluctance to be involved obvious. Even when she tries to do the right thing it doesn’t really work out, whereas Sage seems to slip in effortlessly. The good looking tour leader Tom also seems to think she’s an alcoholic, based off what he’s seen so far and the two are always struggling to keep up, often making the rest of the group late setting off.

I really enjoyed a lot of the aspects of this novel – I loved Amber, flaws and all. I sympathised with her, because although some people would thrive on that sort of upbringing, it wouldn’t be for me and I understood how she’d become because of it. Her mother was a frustrating figure and Sage was definitely more like her than Amber. Amber had always felt the odd one out in her family, Sage was a copy physically of their mother as well whereas Amber didn’t look anything like anyone in her mother’s side of the family and her mother always refused any information on her father which led to her feeling isolated. It’s why the thought of being able to find anything on him at all from this trip to Alice Springs, is so attractive, so much so that she agrees to stay with the tour (after several false starts).

I do have the say that the character of Sage drove me nuts….from pretty much the first page but what she does at a point on the tour to Amber infuriated me. So much so that I had to put the book down for a while because it made me want to throw it. It felt quite contrived unfortunately, I could see it coming from the time they arrived in Coober Pedy. It just felt like the flakiest, most stereotypical thing a character like Sage could do in order to frustrate Amber and also throw her together with Tom in a more intimate manner. And yet there’s very little payoff because the romance in this book is very low key and doesn’t really kick off until the book is almost over – I’d have liked a bit more to be honest. There are some nice interactions between Tom and Amber but it does feel like it takes a bit of time to get where it’s going.

Overall though I did really enjoy this – loved the setting, travelling west through New South Wales to South Australia and then up into the Northern Territory.  I enjoyed the different characters taking part on the tour and the little quirks and quibbles that came up from spending so much time together in such a way. As I mentioned I really liked Amber as well and hoped that she got the information that she was after. Only Sage annoyed me and I would’ve liked a bit more in the romance stakes but those are quite small quibbles really. This book had humour and charm – Janette Paul is better known as Jaye Ford, writer of crime suspense/thrillers but she could definitely carve out a nice rural niche for herself too, if she chose to.


Book #107 of 2017

Amber And Alice is book #35 of the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge


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