Sophie Green – Thursdays at Orange Blossom House

Hachette, Australia, 2021

Sophie Green has already proved herself a mistress of the women’s friendship story with The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club and The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle. In each case a group of disparate women come together over an interest – this time it is a yoga class.

Sophie Green talks to Barbie about Thursdays at Orange Blossom House

However, it is the lives of the individual women along with the exploration of a number of social issues that glue the story together.

The author’s personal interest in yoga, as a teacher and student over many years, gives her insider knowledge into its potential for opening hearts and minds (and stiff joints). She expertly guides Grace Maud, Patricia and Dorothy along their paths of self-discovery and growth to the finding of new strength, purpose, friendship and love of various kinds.

Generational difference plays some part in this story with Grace Maud representing the ageing (in her seventies!), Patricia, a high school teacher, and Dorothy, with her husband a café proprietor in their middle years.

Each is suffering from a sense of lack – for Grace Maud it is the loss of her role as a busy and in charge cane farmer, for Patricia it is her personal life which has been buried under her caring responsibilities for ageing parents and for Dorothy it is the desperate need to bear a child.

Heritage, continuance and tradition are themes which echo not only in the personal stories of the three women, whose bond develops gradually through their regular yoga classes, but expressed in the yoga practice itself. The waggish yoga teacher, Sandrine, treats all of her students with interested care and attention, pushing them physically and reaping emotional results.

Dealing with the difficulties of family relationships is another major theme – Grace Maud must learn to accept that her son is now the farm boss and that he wants to implement modernising change. This causes a rift, not merely because change is difficult, but because Grace Maud feels hurt and considers that she has been sidelined, assumed to be ‘past it’.

Dorothy is blessed with a devoted husband, but they must negotiate some tricky decision making over IVF as well as  the enlargement of their business, a move which takes Frederick away from home just at a crucial time.

Patricia, as more or less sole carer for her ageing parents, wrestles with the problems caused by her mother’s dementia and the best solution for her ongoing residence in a care home, facing initial opposition from her father and downright nastiness and total disregard from her siblings.

At the same time, she is struggling with her personal love life – or lack of it, making decisions at first based on her perception of her role as family care giver. It’s a long road for Patricia to any sense of self-care, self-worth and the capacity to make decisions that also work for her.

All in all, a well written, well-constructed story full of interesting people facing challenges and situations that will resonate with many. The far north Queensland siting of the story allows for observations about the way environment affects people’s outlook, as well as giving readers some much needed vicarious tropical heat. Definitely an absorbing read.

Thank you to Hachette for the review copy and to Sophie Green for, as usual, an engaging and generous conversation.