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The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle - Book Review

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by Gillian Ching (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane who loves exploring quirky places with my dog. Join me on my quest to find, experience, and share fun things to do and interesting places to go.
Published September 4th 2019
Dive into the journey of 4 female ocean swimmers
Photo courtesy Booktopia


Australia novel, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle invites readers to follow the lives of four women who embark on a journey of fun, fitness and friendship and discover more about themselves and each other than they ever expected.

Mother of two, Teresa, widower Marie, Korean nurse Leanne and English immigrant Elaine are all residents of the Sydney beachside suburb of Shelly Bay, who decide to start each day by taking an early morning ocean swim at the nearby beach where they live.

Their reasons for taking on this personal challenge are not all the same and their swimming abilities aren't always equal but that doesn't seem to matter it's just the act of diving headfirst into the unknown of the waves (however scared they might seem) that really counts.

As the story unfolds, we come to witness the deep, affirming friendship that develops between the 4 women as they each face their own personal battles - lies, loneliness, addiction, serious health conditions, adultery and sexual abuse.

One of them observed that, "The ocean is more is vast than our problems. Trust it to help you." As these problems unfold, the constant amidst all of this turmoil is their morning ocean swim and knowing that each will "turn up" for one another to help, guide and support the other no matter what. And therein is the metaphor for the story. Keep swimming and don't be defeated by life's' turbulence.

The book might be starting to sound a bit depressing or soppy but it is quite the opposite. Author Sophie Green has created a novel which affirms our capacity to find a path through whatever life throws at us and to come out of it okay. At the heart of the book is the power of connection and true friendship which these characters model through being non-judgmental, supportive and endless. I suspect many readers might turn the last of the 423 pages wishing they had a friendship circle like these 4 characters or be reminded of their good fortune if they do.

Part of the charm of this book is the timeframe in which it is set. The novel offers a glimpse into Australia in the 1980s when the Paul Hogan Show was mandatory weeknight viewing, Tom Burlinson was cinematic eye candy as the Man From Snowy River and cutlets for dinner brought unanimous, culinary bliss. What on earth were we thinking?

Alongside the women, supporting characters like speedo clad Trev from the surf club, as well as the women's love interests Matt, Andrew and Gus, give a male voice to the book but are overshadowed by the women of the Ladies Swimming Circle.

My suggestion is to enjoy this book over summer, dive into the story and ride the waves of its surprises, tragedies and warmth. I hope that you will come away feeling as renewed, refreshed, and cleansed as a day spent at the beach.

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle was published in 2019 by Hachette Australia.

Photo courtesy Sophie Green facebook page


About the Author, Sophie Green
Sophie Green is an author and publisher who lives in Sydney. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books, some under other names.

In her spa,re time she writes about country music on her blog, Jolene. She grew up by the water in Sydney and will holiday by the ocean in preference to anywhere else. Sophie's debut novel, The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, a Top Ten bestseller, was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards for General Fiction Book of the Year 2018, longlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year 2018 and longlisted for the Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction 2018.
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Your Comment
Sounds like perfect beach fiction for summer.
by May Cross (score: 3|5489) 91 days ago
Thanks for your review Gillian. I have just borrowed a copy from the library, having read and loved 'Fairvale'.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4129) 34 days ago
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