REVIEW: THE LANDING BY SUSAN JOHNSON

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

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I like the multi-layered title of this book. While it relates to the setting (a fictional town called The Landing), it also relates to our own “landings” – where and how we land when life throws us a curve ball (or two). Here’s the blurb:

Jonathan Lott, recently divorced, is about to find how much love really matters in a funny, delightful and poignant novel that lays out the human condition – looking for love in all of its many forms with secrets, polite lies, desperation, compromise and joy.

Jonathan Lott is confused. His wife has left him for a woman and he doesn’t like living alone. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her? There’s a lot happening at The Landing, where Jonathan has his beach house, and he’s about to find out how much love matters.
The Landing is the second novel I’ve read by Susan Johnson (the first was her challenging, startling and vivid My Hundred Lovers). Her writing is a pleasure to read – the prose is by turns poetic and witty, observant and reflective. This latest novel explores the very human need to love and be loved, exploring the pitfalls, challenges and joys that love invariably includes. The blurb suggests that this is Jonathon’s story, but that’s not entirely the case – other inhabitants at The Landing share their stories of love, loss and hope, such as Marie, who moves in with her daughter temporarily (putting paid to her daughters’ dreams), and recalls a long ago marriage proposal that changed her life. One of the most poignant characters is young Giselle, who lives with her neglectful mother, and yearns to be part of a ‘real’ family.

 

Marie hated being touched; she hated having her hand held. Her hand began to sweat but she did not know how to extract it so she kept it there, in misery, the sweat flowing like a fountain on her palm, like a religious miracle. When Marie stood up there was a damp patch on her dress where her hands had been flowing in her lap. (p108)
Despite the mainstream cover, this book is more on the literary side. It’s subtle and the pace is slow, but that’s because it celebrates both a love of writing in Johnson’s insightful and clever prose, as well as a deeper look at human emotions. I savoured it.

 

Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.