Christmas in Canberra by Nicole Taylor

‘It had all begun quite comfortably.’

Meet Louise Keats of Canberra. It is 1988, and Louise is 28 and despite being the eldest in the family, she is the last girl in her family to have a family of her own. She is struggling against chauvinism at work (picture the Australian Taxation Office in 1988). And poor Louise, her family seem to be closing ranks against her (thanks in part to her sister-in-law Roxanne).

So, what is a single woman to do? There are three men who interest Louise, but how can she make any headway? Perhaps her friends can help. In the meantime, Christmas is creeping nearer, and Louise is determined not to spend Christmas with her family (again).

I have two confessions to make. First, this book has been on my shelf for a long time and second, I finish reading any book I start. And so, I persisted. Yes, I lived in Canberra in the 1980s and so many of the places mentioned are familiar to me, and so is some of the angst Louise experiences. But it all went on for too long, and my attention started to wane.

There were a couple of highlights for me. One was Roxanne eventually receiving her comeuppance, another is encapsulated in this passage (Jim and Mary are Louise’s parents):

‘Jim looked at Mary as though he had never seen her before. He was having trouble taking in this information. His wife had forged his signature; taken complete control of their finances and virtually declared their eldest son bankrupt by truncating his ability to draw on his father’s financial resources to prop up his own. He felt ill – with relief.’

I loved it!

The novel does end with Louise tentatively making a step into the future. I do hope that worked out for her. If you are looking for a light read with some laugh-out-loud moments, you may enjoy this.

I believe this was Ms Taylor’s first novel, first published in 2011.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith