Author Talks with Isobel Beech

Isobel Beech is an up and coming, young Australian writer. Her first fictional novel ‘Sunbathing’, was published with Allen & Unwin this month (May, 2022). 📸 by Claire Summers

Isobel Beech is going to take Australia by storm! With a background in copywriting, creative and internet news media, she is well versed in the book world. Her first book titled ‘How To Be Online and Also Be Happy’, was published in 2021. Her spectacular debut fiction called ‘Sunbathing’, has been published with Allen & Unwin this month (May, 2022).

Welcome Isobel and thank you so much for being a part of my Author Talks space online! It is an absolute pleasure to be discussing your new novel and writing experience with you 😊💬

Isobel – wow congratulations on such a moving debut novel! How long has it been in your heart to write fiction? Have you always seen fiction in your writing journey?

Well, I only started doing writing stuff around ten years ago but the first few things I ever wrote were fiction because I was studying a Bachelor of Creative Writing at RMIT. A lot of the curriculum revolves around poetic and narrative-based writing techniques, so I suppose I learned how to write – or learned how I might someday want to write – with fiction.

 I’ve done a fair bit of non-fiction writing since then for online and print media but fiction writing is just less of a pressure cooker I think. It’s so much more open-ended, so much more creative, you can really go wherever with it and say whatever needs to be said. And with it you can build the worlds you wish you lived in, or the worlds you wish you had access to. Like with Sunbathing, so much of the driving force behind the story there is about having a final conversation with a person you’ve already lost. That kind of closure you can only dream about. Writing this book gave me that.

The feeling of your writing style had me captivated from the very instant I started reading Sunbathing. That feeling of connection didn’t waver and had me finishing your novel in less than 48 hours. How long did it take you to plan, write and have Sunbathing published with Allen & Unwin?

Thank you! I’ve heard that people are finishing it quickly which I definitely take as a compliment; I love being able to read a book in a couple of days, I think it really helps to feel like you’ve been transported and lived it yourself.

And I didn’t plan the writing process at all really, I just began. I was at a writing residency in Italy and just wasn’t sure what to do with my time; I wasn’t feeling very motivated or like I had anything worthwhile to say at the time, so I just started writing some stuff down to pass the time. Things I saw that day, dreams I had, the smells and sounds around me. Then the document gained momentum and I began to find bits I liked in it that I wanted to interrogate more. And then I realised I wanted to bring the grief stuff into it – something I was kind of wading through at the time. 

The writing of the first manuscript took around three weeks, then probably six months to sort out and edit and rearrange on my own. Which is remarkably quick for a novel, but I think I just had this spare time and was obviously really invested in telling this story and a lot of it wasn’t fiction – not the feelings or the essence of it – so it kind of tipped out of me. That was in 2019.

By the time I decided it was finished, I actually didn’t know if I wanted to share it with the world at all. Because it felt like a pretty big thing to write about and I was afraid of putting it out there, I guess. But I met with Kelly (from A&U) and we talked about how we saw the book and what it might mean to me or to others as a published thing and she just made the decision really easy. We edited it in 2021 between March and December, and so all up it was probably just under a two-year project. 

So, quick to write and quick to read as it turns out.

I really enjoyed the namelessness of the main female character. She is one person healing from grief, yet she is many. She is one 21st century woman, yet she is many. Through this, I ultimately felt extremely connected to her. What does her namelessness mean to you in the story? Did you begin with a character name or was she always nameless?

She was and absolutely for that very reason. I’ve always enjoyed being able to step right into a character and I feel like the less information you’re given about them – particularly the superficial stuff – just makes that easier.

In the beginning she was genderless, too, and a lot the talk of ‘women’ and ‘men’ stuff included ideas and feelings on gender identity and how there’s so much outside of that binary and what that means for us and our relationships. But in the editing process I was convinced, and rightly so, that these ideas weren’t being given enough air time within the narrative to be doing them justice. So we culled that stuff and she became a she. 

I think it works and is good, particularly for the function of her experiences as a daughter of a dad and what that means for their dynamic, but I’ll have to save the gender dysphoria for the next book.

What has the feeling been like for you, to walk into a bookstore and see your debut fiction novel on the shelf? Or turn on your social media to see your novel pictured, shared and reviewed with so much love?

It’s just a total smoothie of feelings right now! I feel lucky, confused, delighted, exposed. I had no idea what this time was going to be like but thinking about a few months ago, I realise I was being super pessimistic (my editor will attest to that). I just had this idea in my head that it was going to be really challenging, I guess because I’m writing about something that makes me feel vulnerable, and I was thinking I’d be having a hard time with it out there in the world, being consumed by people and commented on. But it’s just been the total opposite of that. It helps that people are saying really nice things about it, like I haven’t really been hit with any criticism yet so maybe ask me again then, but so far it’s felt like a really worthwhile thing to have done. 

A friend said to me the other day, like, how great it is that somehow, this thing that used to cause me all this agony is now the source of all this solace and warmth, and that’s true. I’m suddenly associating this pretty painful thing with good feelings, with these incredibly meaningful conversations and connections. And that’s just the most beautiful, strange, incredible thing.

Thank you Isobel for sharing a piece of your time with me on melreviewsherbooks.com 💖

Book Review: ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech

I sit here, writing this review with a cup of Italian coffee and biscuit in tow. I do not think I could have a set up any more fitting. Isobel Beech has created a novel that draws you in from the very beginning. ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech, takes place mostly in Abruzzo, Italy. The setting is described in such an emotionally and physically connecting way that you feel the Italian breeze, smell the freshly cut tomato salad with basil and olive oil, hear the gurgling of fresh coffee on the stove in the morning, and can imagine the footfalls and efforts of love in the vegetable garden below your window.

I need to preface that this novel does surround the topic of suicide, therefore please read this review with caution and/or pop back onto the blog for another book review soon xx

“… ‘Sunbathing’ explores the workings of the self in the wake of devastation and deep regret, and reveals the infinite ways that the everyday offers solace and hope.”. Transcribed from the back cover of ‘Sunbathing’. In summary, this quote covers the essence of this novel completely.

After suffering the great loss of someone close, an Australian woman books a plane ticket to Italy. She is travelling to stay with her best friend, Giulia, and her fiancé Fab, in their old stone village home. Isobel lets your mind wander as to the setting of this home, and I say home because this is the instant feeling the Beech portrays. It is a place of comfort, warmth, support and hope. We know there is a vegetable garden that Giulia tends to and waters from the buckets of water both the women go walking for every few days. We know that Fab is a writer and pops up to say “Ciao” whenever he hears his name being discussed, either inside or outside the home. We know Giulia and our female main character sit and talk over homemade meals deep into the evening, under the big shady tree in the back yard. We know our main character feels responsible for the loss of a significant figure in her life to suicide. We know that this feeling is one that plagues her mentally and emotionally. Her grief is incongruent to the way she believes is ‘expected’ of her – her grief does not follow a pattern.

It is incredibly unique how connected a reader can feel to the main character through the workings of their inner most thoughts and internal dialogue. The main character utilises online platforms to try and refresh her mind, yet only finds herself feeling more self-destructive after seeking it out. The online and in person conversations about suicide and taking ones life, she finds quite flippant. There is a sense of nobody knowing what she is going through, therefore nobody can help fix her and the significant shift to her life. However, the slow pace of life with Giulia and Fab in Abruzzo, learning to understand the language, making friends with a stray cat called Bric and taking care in planting, tending and caring for, then harvesting their own food and appreciating all it does for the human body, becomes her salvation. Day by day, the sun would rise, the coffee would boil and the routines would begin to heal her.

One of my favourite parts of this novel was seeing how the main characters perspective about Bric, the stray cat, changed over time. To begin with, Bric would only visit Giulia and Fab’s home every so often for food. He was more of a neighbourhood cat but this worried our main character. She was terrified that he wouldn’t return, he would become lost and starve. This became comparative to the loss of the significant person in her life. She felt that if she looked for Bric, fed him and cared for him, he would stay with her. Sadly, no matter how much nurturance and love she expressed to Bric, she couldn’t make him stay. Towards the end of the novel, our main character comes to accept Bric’s coming and going, taking the pressure off herself and understanding that Bric can only extend a portion of himself to her. Nor is he something she, and only she, can feel responsible for on her own.

I also really enjoyed the overarching concept of the old birthing room, turned guest bedroom, that our main character resides in while staying at Giulia and Fab’s home. Throughout the novel, our main character is rebirthing herself into a new person that lives with the loss and grief experienced in her life. It does not leave her completely, it just becomes a manageable part of the new person she’s growing into.

This is one of the most touching books I’ve read this year and I can see myself re-reading it in the future. It is surely one I will be recommending to my local literary book clubs. It is a novel to read with openness and care. I believe it is greatly worth it.

Book Review: ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ by Averil Kenny

Before I jump into this book review, I would love to give one big hug and cheer out to Allen & Unwin, Echo Publishing and Averil Kenny for sending me this beautiful copy of ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’.

‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ is a story about a curse, a playwright and a runaway bride. It is a story that wraps you in hopes and dreams, and allows you as the reader to escape into a world where the essence of small community care, love and support trumps all adversity and challenge.

💬 Let’s talk main characters:

Vivienne Brinsley is a high society young women living in Sydney at the beginning of the novel. It is the night before her wedding to Sydney’s biggest catch and high market man – yet she’s torn with feelings of dread and despair at signing up to a life she doesn’t truely want. Her mother cannot stand to listen to her discontent, so Vivienne turns to her Uncle Felix. Uncle Felix helps Viv escape her loveless relationship and expected life. He sets her travelling on a path to a small town in tropical North Queensland. Here Viv will find her confidence again, explore new friendships and possibly even fall in love with a rugged, handsome and hilarious dairy farmer, Owen.

Josie Monash is a small town gem! Even as a young woman, she has grown up to be a pivotal part of her community. Side stepping her dreams of city starlight and broadway, Josie has remained on her family dairy farm to take care of her Father and two brothers after her mother passed away. Josies’ Grandmother plays a big role in guiding her life choices and has always been a headstrong woman (maybe this is where Josie gets it from). Her Grandmother is determined to see Josie’s theatre directing skills have hit reviews in Sydney’s biggest newspaper. Her Grandmother can see such potential and how tirelessly she works to help others – now it’s Josie’s turn to bloom. So when Vivienne arrives to town and starts swimming in the cursed Lake Evelyn, Josie’s hit play seemingly comes to life.

✏️ Let’s talk plot:

Not so many years ago, a beautiful movie actress, Celeste Starr, tragically died in the lake and it spawned a curse that has plagued the town ever since. Josie’s play is set to uncover the true story behind the life of Celeste, yet it will not come without some adversity and unsettlement from community members. Lake Evelyn has been barricaded off for years now because of community fear. Josie is up against a number of people who do not trust Lake Evelyn and its ghosts.

As Josie persists with the play, people will begin to show their true colours. A number of characters are not who they seem and their small, unsettling parts in the novel, eventually surface what true motives lie beneath. Long kept secrets slowly reveal themselves in the most well paced and slow burning way!

⭐️ Final thoughts:

I loved that this novel, much like Those Hamilton Sisters by Averil Kenny (click on the title to read my Author Talks with Averil). ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ has all the good things you’re looking for in a time period novel. Drama ✅ Mystery ✅ Romance ✅ Perfectly paced reveals ✅ Escapism ✅

I’m not lying to you when I say we have had to restock this novel in the book shop over 5 times now! Averil is a hit!! Her writing is DEvine and captures the reader with such lyricism that it becomes hard to put her novels down. I am so incredibly grateful to see, hold and enjoy another novel from her and can only predict that Averil is set to continue creating beautiful stories in the future. She is an instant purchase for me and I will be recommending her until the cows come home (🐮 I hope this was an Owen approved pun!).

Bookshelf jealousy

I don’t know about you avid book addicts, but when I come home with a new stack of books, my shelf is just warping under the expected pressure of holding more and more 🤣

I’m that person that has stacks of books in my living rooms, spare room and bedroom. I truely hope they please the eye ascetically, but honestly they probably just confirm the fact that I am a book addict and cannot fathom giving up some of my favourite reads.

Is your bookshelf jealous of how many new book you bring home each week/fortnight/month? 📚

Let’s talk my latest book & tv show obsession …

It was about time I shared this book to tv show adaptation on my blog because MY GOD – I cannot stop talking about it in the store, to my friends, to customers, nor rewatching it on Netflix.

It is … ‘Heartstopper’ 😍😍

Soon after me discovering this graphic novel (that admittedly I’d picked up and put back down again in the bookstore multiple times!!), had it been created into a tv show – I was bingeing it in no time! Now I’m not talking your regular tv series binge, I’m talking laughing/crying/gasping/squealing and feeling all the feels.

I then went on to buy the first book and devour it in one sitting. I’m in love with the characters of Charlie and Nick and the relationships it just show are just the cutest, most positive representation of LBGTQIA+. This show makes my heart happy and my soul warm. Read the graphic novels and try something new, like I did! Then watch the tv show, it is just the best!

💫 Mini Review 💫

‘Insomnia’ by Sarah Pinborough

I finished this novel in a matter of 3 days. If you liked Sarah’s most well known novel and now tv show ‘Behind Her Eyes’, you’ll love the twists and turns that ‘Insomnia’ presents.

Emma can’t sleep. She is plagued by paranoia and the feeling of dread associated with her 40th birthday. Her mother went mad at 40 and now Emma cannot let go of the fact that her inability to sleep has her mind and body travelling down the same path.
Her traumatic childhood meant the separation of Emma and her sister Phoebe, from their mothers care. In adult life, Emma seems the be the one who came out on top and overcame the challenges and impacts of her mothers madness … until now.
Her son is terrified of her. Her husband doesn’t trust her. Her mother has been murdered in her psychotic unit and Emma was the last to see her. Her sister may be having an affair with her husband. Her teenage daughter is rebelling. She’s unable to concentrate at work. She’s going mad or is she?

The Monthly Wrap: March

I started my March reading month off with ‘Goodnight Vivienne, Goodnight’ by Steven Carroll. Now this wasn’t a stand out piece of literature to me and I truely put this down to my general lack of knowledge behind T.S Elliot. ‘Goodnight Vivienne, Goodnight’ focuses on the downfall of T.S Elliot’s wife, Vivienne, and her admission to a mental asylum. From bits and pieces I’ve gathered from conversations with other readers and in the novel, a number of T.S Elliot’s early poetry was in fact written about his wife. The beginning of their love story was intoxicating, bubbling and exciting for them both, however soon after, Vivienne (as the novel is mostly from her perspective) discovers that her trust in Elliot is flailing. Elliot divorces Viv as his popularity surges and his illusive relationship with Virginia Woolf grows. Interestingly, the other perspective of this novel is from a police office, who is on a rat race trying to find Vivienne after she breaks out of the mental asylum. She is attempting to change her identity, therefore he continues to find himself coming up short until he reads some of T.S Elliot’s poetry. I would recommend this book to those who love and follow Steven Carrol, as I did really enjoy his writing style. I would also recommend this to lovers and admirers of T.S Elliot’s poetry and his back story, however it does not necessarily paint him in a positive light.

Next I read, ‘Only a Monster’ by Vanessa Len. I must preface that if I were say …. 15 years old, heck I would have LOVED this novel. However, since broadening my reading habits and styles, I did find this a little amateur. I can admire how much of an easy, quick and capturing read this novel is because it only took me 3 days to read. ‘Only a Monster’ I started after dinner one night and found myself flying through it – I wanted to have it finished the following day. Our story takes place in a modern day city and follows the perspective of Joan, who is in fact a monster and the villain of this story – which is quite clever. Early on, Joan falls in love with the hero of this story but he seeks to destroy her as it has been cast as his life mission. Que the haters to lovers and all the action, drama, and fantasy in between. This YA fantasy had great twists and turns, plus a fabulous plot twist that I didn’t see coming – this upped my overall like for the book. I can also admire that Vanessa is an Australian author breaking into the YA Fantasy scene – that takes guts and she has done a wonderful job at the age demographic she’s targeting.

My two half reads for the month of March were, ‘The Cult of Romance’ by Sarah Ayoub and ‘Careering’ by Daisy Buchanan. ‘The Cult of Romance’ is due to hit shelves on the 4th of May 2022.

‘The Cult of Romance’ is a fun young adult romance novel about Natalie, a Lebanese 20 year old young woman trying to understand WHY her best friend has made the unfathomable decision to get married at the ripe age of 21. This was youthful, fun and somewhat relatable due to how modern the author has made the character’s environment. Natalie is certain that love is a sham and cannot see how her bestie is actively choosing to marry a Lebanese boy she met on holiday while in Lebanon – less than 3 months ago! Natalie has be teed up to plan the hens party in Lebanon with the dreadful best man, whom she has never laid eyes on. Travelling to Lebanon for the wedding is also taking up a lot of Natalie’s thoughts and once she gets there, her perspectives on her culture, her family and her best friends new engagement start to change. Admittedly, I read this mostly for work as it enables me to broaden my reading style and recommend to more age demographics. ‘The Cult of Romance’ will sit in young adult fiction but it is a great stepping stone into adult fiction for 16+ readers.

‘Careering’ by Daisy Buchanan sounds so fun and totally up my alley, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it this month. I borrowed this book from my local library and look forward to the day it comes back into my borrowing stack again. Imogen, our main character, reminds me of myself in a lot of ways (aside from the fact that I love my job 😍). She is working full time, writing a blog in between that and trying to maintain the uphill battle of achieving her dreams. Additionally, she is trying to maintain a social and dating life. This book was told from two perspectives, Imogen and Harri. Harri is the leading figure in one of the UK’s most popular magazine copies, yet this company has seen the loss of their head of house and declining profits. Harri’s truely believes after all her hard work, she will be next in line for a big promotion – but it doesn’t come. Imogen idolises Harri, yet neither of their jobs give them back 100% of what each woman puts in. They are both being, bitten, chewed and spat back out again and they’re over it. Harri is offered the opportunity to develop and manage a new blog for the magazine and this is where Imogen comes in. This novel did have me laughing out load at times and I liked the way it was moving, however I just wasn’t ready to commit to the story at this time in March.

I wrapped up my reading month with ‘You and Me on Vacation’ by Emily Henry. This novel by Emily and her other, ‘Beach Read’ have been on my TBR for a while now. Therefore, as soon as I saw ‘You and Me on Vacation’ become available at my local library, I jumped on board. I will be posting a full book review on this light holiday read quite soon, therefore I cannot give too much away 😉 What I will say is that this was exactly what I needed when I grabbed for it! Poppy and Alex are the best of friends and for years they’ve have taken budget friendly holidays together. These holidays are the pinnacle of each of their stressful jobs/lives/personal expectations, and something they dedicate to just the two of them. As grow as individuals, their relationship also changes and feelings develop, but neither is likely to admit or acknowledge how they feel – until this summer … when everything changes 🎆

What did you read and love in the month of March? Was it a brand spanking new book, or one off your long awaited TBR pile? 💬 Comment below …

What type of reader are you?

What type of reader are you?

Technically, I am the type that … ‘Lives in the bookshop/library’ because I am SUPER LUCKY to work full time in a bookstore and practically live there 😱 , and I also have a big love for my local library. Every visit, I never fail to leave without a book in hand.

I am also a ‘book collector’ because I have more unread books on my shelves than read. I am hoping to somewhat change that this year. I want to make a dent in my TBR but even this far into 2022 – I am already sadly failing …

I would also strongly say I’m the type that ‘never completes (and still buys more)’ because I have a strong personal belief with my reading that, if I am not liking a book 100 pages in – I will not enjoy the rest of the book. This year I have flicked through quite a lot of books with this method … maybe 6 already! I think there are too many GREAT books in the world waiting to be read, therefore I don’t really value spending time on a book I don’t enjoy. Owwww savage, I know but ultimately true! 🤓

Initial Image created by idotdoodle – Instagram

My Giant TBR …

Rachel from FRIENDS is a total VIBE! She is honestly a replica of me everyday at work – struggling to stop the growth of my TBR (to be read) pile.

Cute new releases that I must purchase and read:

🍸 ‘The Good Girl Complex’ by Elle Kennedy

🍸 ‘The Winter Dress’ by Lauren Chater

🍸 ‘The Lincoln Highway’ by Amor Towles

🍸 ‘Careering’ by Daisy Buchanan

🍸 ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ by Averil Kenny *WOO so excited for Averil – check out our interview here (Click me)

What new books are you excited for?

Reading Feels

Sooo relaxing 🤣

Can you think of a book, series or author that gives you allll of these reading feels 💬⬇️

For me, the instant book series that comes to mind is Sarah J Maas’ ‘Throne of Glass’! My gosh do these books destroy your entire being/social life/conversations with people/ability to breath-eat-sleep … I have to mentally prepare myself for her newer books – Crescent City 1 & 2. I will hopefully get a wriggle on with them as the days start to cool down and winter rolls in. For some reason, fantasy is a winter read for me and I really struggle to read it when I’m not rugged up on my couch, with a blanket and steaming tea or coffee ☕️