Uncer­tainly CER­TAIN

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - READING CORNER -


The com­ing-of-age story is a lit­er­ary sta­ple. There are so many ver­sions and yet still nov­el­ists keep com­ing up with fresh ways to write about that pe­riod in life when you’re just start­ing out and try­ing to de­cide who you are and where you’re go­ing.

Sally Selt­mann’s com­ing-ofage novel reads al­most like a mem­oir at times. It’s set in the mid-’90s when its main char­ac­ter Joni John­son is fresh out of art school and liv­ing in Bal­main, Syd­ney. She has ideas of how the ma­jor mile­stones of her life might turn out, but so far re­al­ity isn’t match­ing them.

The loss of her vir­gin­ity, for in­stance, has re­cently been un­spec­tac­u­lar and it seems that love is elud­ing her.

Much of the ac­tion is set in the restau­rant where Joni wait­resses at night. If a place like Har­land ex­ists in real life, then I’d love to go. It’s a ram­bling old villa filled with vin­tage fur­ni­ture, mis­matched china, a French menu and a bo­hemian pro­pri­etress.

This story re­ally is a slice of life. It’s about the dy­nam­ics of Joni’s friend­ships with the peo­ple who work at Har­land and her re­la­tion­ship with her best friend, a capri­cious star­let called Annabelle.

What it does re­ally well is cap­ture the way it feels to be that age – how you can be so cer­tain about some things and so con­fused about oth­ers, how you can love and judge far too quickly, and how friend­ships can change as peo­ple do.

What isn’t quite as con­vinc­ing is the ro­mance an­gle to the plot. It all seems rushed and glib in comparison. In fact, the later chap­ters have much more of a YA feel to them.

I would have pre­ferred to elim­i­nate the love in­ter­est all to­gether and learnt more about the other char­ac­ters – Dave the chef, Lucy the saucy French restau­rant owner, minxy Annabelle and un­re­li­able wait­ress Juliet – who are all well sketched but whose sto­ries seem to go nowhere.

There’s a level of im­ma­tu­rity to Love­some that shows it is a de­but novel, but there is also some lovely writ­ing

and a lot of charm.

Love­some by Sally Selt­mann (Allen & Un­win, RRP $32.99).

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