All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull – a review

Cover,  All Good Things

All Good Things is an intensely personal memoir written by Sarah Turnbull, author of Almost French (2002). Sarah was a warm and engaging participant in several sessions during the 2014 Perth Writers Festival. I was very pleased when she offered to pose with me for a photo after she had signed my copy of her new memoir.

Sarah Turnbull signing my copy of her book at the 2014 Perth Writers Festival
Sarah Turnbull signing my copy of her book at the 2014 Perth Writers Festival

In her first book, we read about the protagonist’s move from Sydney to Paris to be with Frederic, with whom she had fallen deeply in love. She describes her joys and trials as she settled into a new relationship, home and culture. In All Good Things: a Memoir, the reader follows Sarah and Frederic to French Polynesia. They settle on the tiny island of Mo’orea, a ferry ride from Pape’ete, the capital city of Tahiti. They eventually leave Polynesia and return to Sydney.

Couple’s journey in All Good Things

While Frederic works in the capital as a lawyer for a Paris-based law firm, Sarah attempts to complete the novel which she began in Paris. Every morning, she swims the same laps in the lagoon. The couple are befriended by local people, entertaining and being entertained as they begin to understand more about the new culture in which they’ve immersed themselves. They learn to scuba dive; they travel around ‘their’ island and further afield.

But underlying this delightful lifestyle is Sarah’s and Frederic’s painful, passionate longing for a child. When Sarah discovers she is already prematurely perimenopausal they understand that she is unlikely to conceive. They almost have given up hope of becoming parents. But after talking with a counsellor Sarah decides to have one final attempt at in vitro fertilisation.

Sarah immerses herself daily in the lagoon. She also immerses her reader in lyrical descriptions of the natural wonders of the island where she and her husband live. While occasionally humorous, All Good Things: a Memoir is poignant. Her desire for a baby is almost tangible. I hurt with her longing, felt her anxious impatience as she and Frederic waited until the pregnancy was established. I rejoiced with them after the birth of baby Oliver.

When I opened this book, I hoped for a continuation of Almost French, which I thoroughly enjoyed when it was first published. All Good Things does not continue the story. Instead, it stands alone, different in many ways from the first, and just as good.

Australian Women Writers' Challenge 2014
Australian Women Writers’ Challenge 2014

 This is the second of my six reviews for the 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

8 replies on “All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull – a review”

    1. Thanks, Louise. I discovered Almost French when I was researching how to write a travel memoir before I began to write Other People’s Country, and John and I have stayed several times in apartment a block away from where Sarah Turnbull lived in Paris. I feel as if I know her!

  1. Thank you, Maureen, for your inviting review of Sarah Turnbull’s new book – I will definitely be following up on that now!
    And wouldn’t it be good if someone wrote about the in vitro experiences that have affected the lives of all the participants – because the specialist staff would be involved, too, wouldn’t they? I think many people would be interested in their stories.

    1. Glad the review was interesting, Coral. Yes, that’s a really good topic for a piece of major writing research. Did you know that my daughter, Jenny, was the executive officer of the Reproductive Technology Council and manager of the Reproductive Technology Unit (WA Health Department) a few years ago?

  2. Haven’t read either of her books, but think I would rather read the first one first.
    Thanks Maureen.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. Yes, I think you might prefer the first. I thought they were both good, but it might be a mood thing.

  3. Thankyou for sharing this book with us Maureen. You have the honour of being the first person to review Sarah Turnbull’s book for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. It will be interesting to see if this memoir will be as popular as Turnbull’s first memoir.

    1. Sarah Turnbull’s travel memoir, ‘Almost French’, was one of the models I thought about before I started writing ‘Other People’s Country’. ‘All Good Things,’ her second memoir is very different from the first, but I found it equally as interesting and enjoyable. I hope it does well. I was pleased to review it.

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