Sarah Turnbull, All Good Things, – a review


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 and 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, and 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, where they settle on the tiny island of Mo’orea, a ferry ride from Pape’ete, the capital city of Tahiti. The eventually leave Polynesia and return to Sydney.

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. In the same way, she 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 also 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, and rejoiced with them when baby Oliver was born.

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 is not a continuation. It is a stand-alone story, 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.