Hachette, Australia, 2021
Cover design Christabella Designs
In her real life, Fiona Palmer has her feet firmly on the ground – or more accurately on the floor of large agricultural machinery or the pedals of a racing car, but in her fictional world she does love a good romance and at the same time takes a look at contemporary concerns, many of them urban.
In The Long Weekend, four millennial characters gather for a writing retreat: the immaculately turned-out Alice, the buff gym owner Jamie, the Instagram influencer Simone and the single mother Beth.
These simple facades however are quickly cracked as all the characters gradually release big secrets. Not only that, the famous best-selling author who runs the retreat also harbours a terrible secret and the attendees must overcome their initial wariness of one another to unite and confront her with it.
The thing about big secrets is that they also cover big griefs and this is certainly the case here. The griefs all point to the bigger issues which the author presents as the underlay to her present time plot – loneliness, loss of a loved one, guilt, post-natal depression, the gym culture, the weight loss world, macho expectations placed on men, social media’s power and deficits, marriage and the biggy, love.
Multiple faces of love are on view here: sexual passion, illicit relationships, family love, the loyalty of friends, romantic love both idealised and in everyday clothing, love of the written word.
And it is that which stands out for me in this book. All the characters including the struggling writer of renown find their way home through the telling of their stories. They write their stories to help themselves and to inform and help others.
Fiona Palmer is a writer who demonstrates great facility for storytelling, for swiftly moving a plot along. She produces a work much greater than the sum of its parts, in fact. The work is accessible by design and so the reader can both bring to and take from The Long Weekend a host of personal connections and conclusions.
She writes relatable characters and it is important to her that they feel real. Thus, all are flawed and fallible, impulsive at times in both their good and bad actions.
The other thing Fiona Palmer works towards is the assurance and reassurance of a happy ending. And in times like these, as in other times of wide-spread, large scale challenge, this is something so many people crave. I have no doubt that The Long Weekend will be another best seller for this author, one to add to her string of top 10 selling books.
Thank you Hachette for my review copy and Fiona for such a great chat about the book and your other life in rural WA.