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