by Meredith Jaffe
Gwen Hill adores Green Valley Avenue. Here she has built friendships, raised her children and nurtured a thriving garden. So when the house next door is sold, Gwen wonders how the new family will settle into this cosy community.
Francesca Desmarchelliers has high hopes for the house on Green Valley Avenue. More than a new home, it’s a clean slate for Frankie, who has moved her brood in a bid to save her marriage.
To maintain her privacy and corral her wandering children, Frankie proposes a fence between the properties, destroying Gwen’s picture-perfect front yard.
To Gwen, this is an act of war.
Soon the neighbours are in an escalating battle about more than just council approvals, where boundaries aren’t the only things at stake.
Heeeeyyyy…….I really liked this book actually!
I went into this book not really expecting anything. The first two or three chapters, I hadn’t really gotten into the story because I wasn’t able to relate to any of the characters who are all adults with families. So personally as a teenager who is sooooo immature, all that adult stuff about work and kids was a whole different ball game for me.
But this book was HILARIOUS. Frustrating but soooo funny. It was frustratingly hilarious.
The fence conflict between Gwen and Frankie was undoubtedly petty but it was so funny to read about Frankie’s efforts to blame every little thing on Gwen. They were both quite similar characters with drastically different lives. They’re both independent and fiercely passionate with what they are doing – they’re strong women and it’s interesting seeing them come head to head.
Gwen recently lost her best friend Baba and has to deal with the that loss. Her home next door is sold to Frankie, a working mother with 4 children and an unfaithful stay-at-home husband. When Gwen’s pride and joy – her garden – is being threatened by Frankie’s plan to build a fence between the two homes, a hostile relationship soons builds between the two families.
This ‘war’ is intertwined with the personal lives of both characters. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both. The story is originaly, the writing is witty and the characters are realistic and vivid. There’s an amusing commentary from both characters about each other which is really funny to read about but there are also serious undertones. Gwen’s husband, Eric – WHO IS THE BEST AND SWEETEST HUSBAND IN THE WORLD; GIVE ME ONE – is beginning to suffer from dementia and it is torture reading about this down-to-earth, kind husband slowly lose his memory and his identity. At the same time, Frankie’s own personal life is struggling. She cannot forget her husband’s infidelity and their current situation of Frankie working and her husband, Brandon staying at home and looking after the kids is just not working. Personally, I really admired Gwen for her wisdom and Frankie for her determination but OMG, Frankie, don’t take out all your anger on a sweet old lady!!!! I’m not going to lie, Frankie was annoying at times. She blames Gwen at any moment she can get. When their dog get sick, she calls the RSPCA (was it the RSPCA?) and complains about Gwen being some sort of mean old lady who goes out of her way to kill her dogs. Like, COME ON.
Brandon embodies everything I don’t like in a man, or really just a person. He’s complacent, ignorant, selfish, lazy and self-centred. Firstly, cheating on your significant other is a NO-NO so I disliked him right away. Sure, it was evident that he loves his kids but URGGGHHH, he is a terrible husband! He doesn’t listen to Frankie because all he does is complain about her but in all fairness, Frankie does the same so all I could conclude – as a totally inexperienced, awkward teenager – that they just weren’t meant for each other. It really provided insight on what happens in a marriage and what is really means to actually marry someone. You have live with all their flaws and everything! Omg, I’m happy that’s so far away for me.
The book explores family, love and friendship as well as also what it means to be neighbours. The fence is an extended metaphor for the barriers we place to block ourselves from people. Both Gwen and Frankie’s families are falling apart and must find a way to manage and solve it and in the process, begin to look past their conflicts and perhaps become friends. What I particularly enjoyed is the clear Australian-ness of the story. They mention suburbs in Sydney WHICH I KNOW. It is so appealing and refreshing to read an obviously Australian novel by an Australian author as an Australian. It really is a beautifully woven story that blew me away with it’s depth and complexity.