Until this year, I could count on one hand the number of Chick Lit or contemporary women’s fiction I’ve read that hasn’t been written by friends, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Stella Makes Good. Yet I was swept up into the world Heidke created and found myself caring about her characters’ fates.
Although it’s ostensibly Stella’s story, this is actually an ensemble piece, tracking the lives of Stella, her friends and their families. While Stella is the most well adjusted – despite initially being faced with the most fraught family circumstances – her friends, Carly and Jesse, and Jesse’s sister Louisa are more than minor characters. They support and, in some ways, take over from Stella’s story, as circumstances force them to undergo greater character growth and change.
The setting is solidly suburban Sydney, North Shore, middle-class and privileged, but these characters’ lives are shown to be anything but bland. Heidke knits together mundane preoccupations which will be familiar to many women: work, husbands, children, ageing parents, repartnering after a failed relationship, fears for the future and regrets over the past; and she does so with skill, humour and more than the occasional insight into human frailties, making the novel overall a very quick, entertaining and engaging read.
Heidke makes no apologies for the everyday focus:
In another country, there might be a tsunami, a suicide bombing, war – but in Jesse’s world, the kids still needed to be fed, their homework completed, their teeth brushed. (p147)
Heidke writes with the confidence of knowing there are lots of women who will relate to and enjoy her insights into the everyday lives of her characters.
This review has appeared in GoodReads and is Book 8 of my Aussie Authors 2012 Challenge. Reviews of Stella Makes Good for the Australian Women Writers challenge include Paula, Jayne, Shelleyrae, Rachael, Monique and Bree.
Stella Makes Good
Allen & Unwin 2012