Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: Friends like These by Wendy Harmer


Available @
Fishpond AU 

This is the first book written by Wendy Harmer that I have read. I used to listen to her breakfast radio show years ago and always thought she was funny, so I've been interested to read one of her books for a while.

This book is set in Sydney against the backdrop of the financially privileged of the exclusive girls school Darling Point Ladies College. The heroine of this story is Jo, an ex student and ex teacher of this school, whose picture perfect life takes an unexpected turn. She finds herself surrounded by scandal as she strives to find a new place in the world for herself. Her new career as a civil celebrant finds her inadvertently tracing the same social circles she did as the deputy headmistress, but from a whole new perspective.

This book is full of unique characters, from a social climbing hippie, to property business men, ritzy and glitzy socialites, gay couples and even a Jesuit priest. They are all flawed in their own way and struggling with their own demons. The book explores the exclusivity, greed, ugliness and fraudulence that lurks beneath the surface of the wealthy. And Jo, in amongst it tries to maintain friendships, find meaning and morale. I felt the plight of Jo in her struggles to be fair and was happy that in doing so she was able to live the life she dreamed of in the end, which doesn't always happen in reality.

Cleverly woven into the story is a historical mystery regarding the school, which in the end reveals that scandal is nothing new to Darling Point Ladies College.

This book is very Sydney and very Australian. That means the dialogue is not without profanity, but I'm happy to report that whilst it contained some sexual references, it did not contain any sex scenes. Harmer's humour is present throughout the book, and it was indeed clever, but truthfully I didn't find myself howling with laughter.

This isn't the type of book I normally read, and I felt that keenly as I progressed through it. I found myself describing this book to my sister as "secular". If you like your books immaculately clean, this isn't for you. On the other hand, if you don't mind a little bit of shock and scandal, then you will find that this book isn't overly explicit or debaucherous. Overall I did enjoy the book, and I was satisfied with the final resolutions.

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