This Has Been Absolutely Lovely by Jessica Dettmann

‘It was like a murder of crows had muscled in on a couple of pigeons.’

Back in the 1980s, Annie Jones was part of a mildly successful band named Love Triangle. But her dreams were derailed by family responsibilities. Thirty-five years later, with her parents now dead and her three children grown, Annie wonders whether she can try again.

But families are complicated. Annie’s family is together in the days before Christmas, to attend her father’s funeral and will then celebrate Christmas together. They are all staying in the home of her late parents. Meet Molly and her partner. Molly is pregnant with her first child. Meet Simon, his wife and child, who have flown in from Germany, and Naomi and her child. And then, there are the other two members of Love Triangle: Annie’s ex-husband Paul, and his partner Brian.

Molly wants Annie to help look after her baby, Simon wants Annie to sell the house. At least Naomi seems content. Can Annie find her own space, and freedom to pursue her dreams? Or is it too late?

‘This was impossible, Annie thought. How was she supposed to know who knew what about whom and if they did know how they had found out, and how long they had known for and what they were planning to do with information they may or may not have? This felt like picking up an Agatha Christie novel halfway through. It was a murder mystery, and the victim was Annie’s whole history.’

Ms Dettmann has peopled her novel with a delightful (mostly) collection of very human characters, with their anxieties, concerns, dreams, and regrets. Most of our view of events is delivered from the perspectives of Annie and Molly. There’s humour here, as well as all the complicated dynamics of family. An enjoyable read.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith