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1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Meet Me In Venice by Barbara Hannay

on August 14, 2019

Meet Me In Venice
Barbara Hannay
Penguin Random House AUS
2019, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A year after her husband Leo’s death, widow Daisy invites her three adult children to join her for a holiday in beautiful Venice. It will be wonderful, her chicks under one roof again in their father’s birthplace. But is it possible to recapture the past?

Marc’s marriage is in jeopardy, but for his mother’s sake, he convinces his wife to keep up appearances. Anna’s trying to hide the truth about the dismal state of her London acting career; and Ellie, enjoying a gap year and uncertain about her future choices, wants to avoid family pressure to conform.

Despite the magic of Venice, family ties are tested to the limit, especially when a shocking secret from Leo’s past is revealed. Now everything they value about love, family, commitment and trust must be re-examined.

How can one family holiday require so much courage? Will Daisy’s sentimental journey make or break them?

Barbara Hannay is one of my favourite Australian authors and a new novel from her is always a cause for celebration. In this one we mostly leave Australian shores for Venice. Widow Daisy has decided to undertake the trip that she and her late husband Leo would’ve taken in his retirement and shout her three kids a trip to Venice, the place of Leo’s birth. Given that her family are spread quite far and wide – son Marc in Silicon Valley, middle daughter Anna in London, it gives them a chance not to just catch up but to spend some real quality time together as well. She doesn’t really know that Marc has separated from his wife Bronte and that Anna’s career in London has stalled and neither of the two offspring want to tell her. Daisy has struggled since Leo’s death and they both can tell that this Venice trip is something that excites her enormously, gives her back her spark. Youngest child Ellie has just finished year 12 and doesn’t know what she wants out of life, unlike both her ambitious siblings, which often leaves her feeling a bit the odd one out.

I really enjoyed this book on a lot of levels. I actually connected to more of the characters than I thought I would, surprisingly I found myself being able to identify quite strongly with Ellie, who is half my age but I’ve talked before about how I’ve never really felt like I knew what I wanted to ‘do’ in life. That I’ve never had that drawing towards a career like others have, who immediately know what they want and go after it. Or fall into something they’re excellent at. It’s probably especially harder when there’s siblings who went before you and managed to make successes of themselves, which is what Ellie feels. She is younger by a decent amount than her older siblings and I think sometimes it more feels like they’re distant relatives rather than her brother and sister. After all both live overseas and probably have done for most of her high school years. There’s definitely a little bit of distance and Ellie seems reluctant to talk to them about her lack of ideas, her need to take a break to figure things out.

I found myself really invested in the story of Marc, the oldest child who was pushed to always do his best. He ended up in Silicon Valley working crippling days trying to keep up with everyone else there and it’s about to cost him everything, including his marriage. Marc and Bronte met at university and she moved to America with him although her Visa prevents her from working so she’s been left on her own for long hours day and night while Marc works. Even when he’s there, he’s not really present as he’s checking his emails and squeezing in more work. Bronte has basically had enough and only her fondness for Marc’s mother has her agreeing to go on the trip and pretend everything is still fine so that they can find a way to gently break the news to her in person. The forced proximity is extremely difficult for them both and it makes them really think about what they want, what is important and how much should you be willing to sacrifice for a job. I really liked this because a lot of the time I do read about people just getting together but there’s less about marriages that are going through difficulties and how you make it work when things change, say from the more laid back days of uni to juggling jobs, especially very demanding jobs.

There’s a bit of a mystery running through this book as well – Daisy discovers something puzzling before they arrive in Venice, and then once there, they visit some remaining family of Leo’s who also drop a bit of a bombshell that rocks them all. I really enjoyed the way this played out and how it took an unexpected turn, which I appreciated. I also got a chance to enjoy Venice as a setting…..funnily enough I’ve not read a whole lot set in Venice and a lot of what I’ve read is more historical fiction, so it was good to visit it in a modern way. There was a little about the issue of tourism in Venice as well, which I feel most self-aware tourists and would be tourists should be thinking about.

This was incredibly engaging and a lovely look at family relationships and how grief can also serve as a catalyst to bring people together, to take control of what is left and use it as an opportunity to reshape your life. I loved this! Well I love all of Barbara Hannay’s books so really this is no surprise.

8/10

Book #123 of 2019

Meet Me In Venice is book #56 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Feeling well on my way to my 80 book total for the year!


One response to “Review: Meet Me In Venice by Barbara Hannay

  1. […] Meet Me In Venice by Barbara Hannay. My review. […]

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