‘Those Pleasant Girls’ by Lia Weston
Copy received from Pan Macmillan in exchange for review
Evie Pleasant, nee Bouvier, is back in town. In a figure-hugging skirt, high heels and a pin-up hairdo, she’s unrecognisable from the wild child who waged war on Sweet Meadow in her youth.
She’s made a promise to herself: ‘No swearing. No drinking. No stealing. No fires.’
Trailing a reluctant 16-year-old daughter and armed with cake making equipment, Evie’s divorce and impending poverty has made her desperate enough to return to Sweet Meadow to seduce her former partner-in-crime and start again.
But the townsfolk have long memories and the renegade ex-boyfriend is now the highly-respected pastor. Evie’s cakes have a job to do.
I must admit, this is not a book I would have picked of my own accord – but I AM trying to be well rounded, and to read more Australian authors, so when this crossed my path (I almost said desk, but I don’t really have a desk) I decided to give it a whirl.
‘Those Pleasant Girls’ mixes small town Australian drama with a bit of romance and a dash of dry humour. It all seems sweet enough at first: former wild child Evie returns home, determined to reinvent herself and to win the heart of the pastor, primarily through baking. Mary, her moody teenage daughter, faces a new school, new friends, and the trials of first love. Misadventure ensues. So far entertaining enough, but nothing out of the ordinary.
As the novel progresses, though, Evie’s determination to seduce Nathan (with the expected comic mishaps) turns into an obsession. As in, a fully-fledged, destructive, we’re-not-joking-any-more obsession. It all ends well, but this dark turn made the book for me – all the more because it is so deftly handled.
Much of the balance comes from Weston’s cast of supporting characters: we have the small town eccentrics of course, but Mary’s incorrigible friend Mini D, and the alarmingly pink Joy Piece, are among the highlights. I liked Mary, too – she tempers Evie’s desperate cheerfulness, and clearly possesses the same anarchic tendencies that her mother is trying to so hard to hide.
The romantic plotlines were all quite palatable (remember, I have a low tolerance for romance), though I did have them figured out early on. However, this is a minor quibble and didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Those Pleasant Girls is a sweetly diverting novel that I liked much more than I’d anticipated. I’m put in mind somewhat (having not read it, I could be wrong) of The Dressmaker, although this is definitely the lite version, with baking instead of haute couture. This book was also a great palate cleanser after all the dark fantasy/YA books that I’ve been reading. However, I am now craving caramel slice. Or scones. Ah, well. Time for a cup of tea.
Until next time–