Heather Winterbottom is in the process of ‘moving on’ with life. She’s into retirement, after she and her husband, Alan, sold their medical practice. Heather and Alan are now having to get used to sharing the house fulltime together again, on their own, empty nesters. This proves to be rather trying as all their idiosyncrasies, which weren’t noticed as much when working fulltime, come to the fore. As often happens in elderly couples, they each yearn for doing different things. Heather wants to travel the world and Alan is content with his veggie patch at home. Rather than growing closer together, they seem to be growing further apart. Even though they are spending more time together under the same roof.
When Heather’s good friend Esme dies, she realises that she has to live her life, the way she wants and not wait for Alan to come around to it. Esme, who had regretted not travelling in life in her 90s, had encouraged Heather to travel alone. So, while Alan develops his vegetable garden at home, Heather fulfills her yearning, travelling to Greece, taking Esme’s ashes with her on the journey.
Mrs Winterbottom Takes a Gap Year is an entertaining book that made me laugh. I enjoyed the way Joanna Nell winds humour into this story, turning the most simple daily routines and events into comedy – from eating breakfast foods to lovemaking. It also delivers a few hidden messages about relationships as one ages and the value of taking ‘space’ to better appreciate yourself and to more objectively evaluate relationships with those we love. There were exciting pages to read about her time in Greece, a potential romance, and a lovely ending, where the message is, you really need to leave home to appreciate home.
Reviewed by Judy van Gelderen
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have always wanted to be a writer, long before I knew how or had anything to write about. I grew up in a small market town in the middle of England. I was impatient for books and stories, so I taught myself to read before I started school.
Recognising the imaginative inner world of their shy daughter, my parents bought me my first typewriter when I was eight. They have kept many of those early stories, most of which were about horses. In primary school, when a teacher tried to dissuade me from becoming a doctor on the basis that it wasn’t an easy career for a girl, I knew that medicine was exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. But medical school meant swapping the imaginative world of fiction for science fact. Although I remained a voracious reader, it would be many years before I began to write again.
It was a ten pin bowling accident in 2012, and the weeks spent lying on my back after a hamstring repair (a story in itself), that led to me realising my decades-old dream of becoming a writer. After completing a number of creative writing courses through the Australian Writers Centre I began writing short stories. Many of which were published or won prizes. A writing residency at The Bundanon Trust, awarded by the Fellowship of Australian Writers, was the perfect place to begin work on what would become my first published novel, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village.
I’m an introvert by nature. But attending author events and writers festivals, where I can meet readers and share stories, is one of the most fun and rewarding parts of the writing life.