Running Against the Tide by Amanda Ortlepp

Running Against Tide OrtleppI made a false start when I first picked up Amanda Ortlepp’s Running Against the Tide. I’m not sure of the mood I was in, but the idea of a woman running away with her two teenaged sons to a remote part of South Australia to escape an unhappy marriage didn’t instantly appeal to me. Maybe I’d been listening to too much news. When I recently got back to the book, I’m glad I returned to it. It’s worth the read.

Running Against the Tide introduces Erin Travers and her two sons, Mike and Ryan. Nineteen-year-old Mike is the sociable one, willing to yarn with the kindly-and-not-too-nosy neighbours, oyster-farmer Jono and his wife Helen. Ryan is the one you have to worry about: taciturn, possibly anti-social – or a typical fifteen-year-old grieving the absence of his gambler father? Erin herself is struggling to find her feet back in the remote town where she grew up, dating again, but attracted to men who may not have her best interests at heart; struggling to find peace and privacy in a place where everyone knows each other’s business.

Throw into this family mix bullying, intrigue, theft and arson and you have a good, suspenseful read.

For me, the real star of the book is the setting, South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, and the slow pace of life of Jono’s oyster farming.

Sully pulled the punt level with the line and Jono slipped over the side with a satisfied sigh. Mike dropped into the water behind him. The water was so warm today, they didn’t even need their waders. On days like this, waist deep in warm water with the sun on his back, there was nowhere Jono would rather be. Even in winter, when the cold penetrated his waders and rain felt like pinpricks on his face, he knew it was still better than working in a cubicle day after day, dealing with customers and demanding bosses. The lease was his office and unlike people, oysters were easy to deal with: quiet, compliant and predictable. (89-90)

Well, almost. Jono is soon to discover even oyster farming has its trial.

Ortlepp describes the remote coastal region of Mallee Bay with such precision and beauty I was sure the township must exist. I even looked for it on Google maps and congratulated myself when, after following the clue that it’s 500 kilometres from Adelaide, I worked out it must be based on the real-life town of Cowell. I needn’t have gone to the trouble: Ortlepp notes in the Acknowledgements that Cowell was the inspiration, a town where her grandparents lived in the latter part of their lives and which she visited as a child. Now I want to go there, too!

If you like a mix of psychological suspense and intrigue with your family drama, you’ll enjoy Running Against the Tide.


Country SecretsPS My novel Snowy River Man is now available in print as part of the “3-in-1 Australian Bestsellers” anthology, Country Secrets, published by Harlequin Mira, alongside novels by Mandy Magro and Sarah Barrie. To celebrate, I’m giving away two copies of the anthology to Australian residents, or your choice of either Snowy River Man or By Her Side as ebooks, if you’re outside Australia. You can find details on how to enter on my Lizzy Chandler author blog here. Entries close 31 August.


Author: Amanda Ortlepp
Title: Running Against the Tide
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2016
ISBN: 9781925030631

This review forms part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.










Gambling, Greed and Gullibility: Fall Girl by Toni Jordan

In March this year, the National Year of Reading’s theme was “laugh”. Two Australian authors whose names kept cropping up in my Twitter feed were Paddy O’Reilly and Toni Jordan. Initially I thought I wouldn’t get to read any books by Jordan until next year – my recent releases “to be read” pile is so high it’s tottering. But sometimes I buck my own system.

On the weekend, I went down to the library to find some “light reading” to give myself a break – and found Fall Girl, published back in 2010. What a gem!

Fall Girl is a mixture of romantic comedy, mystery, chick lit and fable, with an underlying Cinderella-cum-Robin Hood motif. The Cinders-Robin character is “Ella” – although that’s only one of the aliases she uses. Ella is an honourable young woman, in her own way, almost an innocent abroad, despite her years’ experience as a “grifter”. She, along with her circus-retinue-like family, have put the “artist” into “con artist”, as Jordan writes, and made a vocation out of duping people.

Within the parameters of her profession, Ella is as dedicated as any careerist, and it is her dedication to her work¬†– rather than its criminality – which provides one of the chief obstacles to her growing attraction to her “mark”, millionaire philanthropist Daniel Metcalf. But Metcalf, too, is not what he seems. The ensuing romp involves Ella posing as a field biologist and conducting a spurious hunt for the fabled Tasmanian Tiger in the wilds of Wilson’s Promontory, and it’s as madcap and funny as anything I’ve read in ages.

In her Acknowledgements, Jordan writes that Fall Girl was inspired by the work of the late Stephen Jay Gould, evolutionary biologist. The research Ella regurgitates while playing her part makes me think this novel could make an excellent text for high school students; but the science is never laboured and the book certainly doesn’t take this, or any other theme, too seriously. For me, Fall Girl had enough wit, charm and whimsy that made it a quick, delightful read. While the characterisations border on caricature and the plot is farcical, the dialogue is witty and laugh-out-loud in places. Underlying the plot is a cleverly serious point about gambling, greed and gullibility, but the satire is gentle, not cutting; the people depicted as foolish, rather than malicious.

Jordan’s first novel was Addition and her latest, Nine Days, was published this year. Fall Girl¬†certainly won’t be the only novel of Jordan’s that I’ll read.

ISNB-13: 9781921656651
Text Publishing, 2010
Borrowed from Avalon Community Library

This review counts as Book 7 of my Aussie Author Challenge 2012, and part of my ongoing participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

  • Goodreads

  • Country Secrets – anthology

  • Snowy River Man – rural romance

  • By Her Side – romantic suspense

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