Monday, 7 November 2016

Book Review: The Other Side of the World

The Other Side of the World
By Stephanie Bishop
Published by Tinder Press
Available in paperback and ebook

The Other Side of the World, Stephanie Bishop's latest novel is a deeply moving and beautifully written novel about search of one family to find utopia in a post-WWII world.

Charlotte's life is deeply rooted in the fens around Cambridge, taking long walks in the winter, enjoying the fog and the way the landscape changes with the weather. She is newly married to Harry, an English Academic, originally from India, with two young children. Once an artist but now she is a mother and it's a role she's struggling to adjust and cope with within the confirms of her small cottage. Harry becomes whipped up with enthusiasm of searching for a new life, and make his wife happy and buys them all one way tickets to Australia, hoping for a new life. Yet for Charlotte the new life may not be as shiny and perfect as her husband has made out.

The Other Side of the World looks at the alienation and displacement of not only physically moving but also a sickness for a past way of life, and searching to get back to happiness. It is not just the homesickness from moving to England to Australia that affects both Charlotte and Henry who are unable to find a rhythm in their new life or settle into a routine. For Henry, the move brings back a sadness for India, and racism that didn't seem as present when he was in England.

On a trip back to India, Henry feels like the country is no longer his home. The people have changed and the way life operates has left him yearning for a time that no longer exists. He feels the same way that many people feel when returning to their childhood home - the familiar feeling but slightly dislodged. Charlotte feels like this about Cambridge yet both of them can not bring themselves to talk to the other - in the evenings they sit in silence - both wanting to escape.

Bishop also looks at the displacement within Charlotte and the way postnatal depression takes hold. Not even moving across the globe helps Charlotte. She becomes more detached and ambivalent towards her children and family life. The heat upsets the fragile family life that Henry is trying to build in a new country. The only hope in Charlotte's heart is the memory of Cambridge, and the passion to find her way back. Her world has shrunk, and finds motherhood claustrophobic with society's expectations weighing down on her.

The Other Side of the World is an insightful novel, and full of beautiful details about the landscape of Cambridge as well as making the reader feel like the heat of Australia is pressing down on you or that you're standing in the middle of the fens. You can find The Other Side of the World in your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via BookBridgr.

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