Author: Fiona Palmer
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: December 1, 2021
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Fiona Palmer just gets better and better with every book. I love her rural fiction but I really think she’s finding a foothold in contemporary fiction as well.
The Long Weekend is an interesting story and I can see where the inspiration would come from, but I can also see it creating a little extra fear and doubt in aspiring authors; though I won’t go into exactly why.
Once I got involved in this story I did not want to put it down, I wanted to get to know the characters better and I wanted to work out what exactly was going on.
The Long Weekend is told from the perspective of four very different people, all participants in a 3 day writers retreat with bestselling author Jan Goldstein. Perspective changes in alternating chapters, and we get a few flashback chapters to get to know the participants a little better and understand their motivations for being at the retreat.
Beth is a single mother and career woman, at the retreat at the insistence of her beloved sister Poppy. She isn’t sure how she’s going to get through the weekend without her son but knows that this is important. The first time away from your child is never easy.
Jamie is the only man in the group and he certainly creates a distraction. The man is smoking hot and far from what anyone expects to find at a writer’s retreat. He is the younger brother of two well known AFL players and runs his own gym, all outdoorsy and ripped. He was certainly a distraction to me also, but there was a lot more to him than what you see on the surface and I enjoyed getting to know more about him.
Simone is, I feel like she’s supposed to be a breath of fresh air; but for me she was more a breath of overpowering perfume. She tried way too hard and came across as a very stereotypical Instagram influencer; bright, always on, everything for a like and more page engagement. It didn’t take long to see that there was a lot more behind that perfectly made up façade and I soon found myself very sympathetic.
Alice is a doting mother of 2, recovering from postnatal depression and hoping to use her experience to help other mothers. She is excited for the opportunity to work with the renowned Goldstein and hopes that she can help get her story ready to publish. She has some baggage that turns out to be a little more difficult to deal with when she discovers that one of the sins of her past is right here on the retreat with her.
These four characters are all very real and relatable, their backstories made me sympathetic to them and left me championing their growth and the fight for them to get what they needed out of this weekend.
Goldstein is there to run workshops on emotion in writing, and being able to show the reader rather than tell. All very important elements that I’m sure many of the authors I admire have done workshops and retreats to work on.
I follow quite a few authors on Facebook and have seen lots of pictures of fabulous weekend getaways where a group get together somewhere to write without the distractions of their usual lives, and I can see how this could be a strong source of inspiration. Palmer does talk a little about this in her acknowledgements.
The characters, the story, the growth – it all had me hooked. The characters have so much to share, and the first task Goldstein sets is to write from the heart; to share a memory that drips with emotion. Goldstein will critique them and then share anonymously with the group, which adds another element to the story as participants try to read into what’s been shared.
In the space of three days these four people not only learn some invaluable lessons about their craft, and themselves, but they forge some valuable friendships that might just last a lot longer than the weekend.
The Long Weekend tackles some very heavy issues; some that many of us face throughout our lives and some that are more specific to artists.
Palmer sensitively tackles issues of self-image, adultery, post-natal depression, single parenthood and also that stage where you start to look forward to settling down and finding that special someone but don’t want to settle; that stage where single life doesn’t seem to cut it anymore, when it’s not about hooking up but about connecting and all the things that go along with that.
Everything I have focused on here is quite serious and heavy but there is also a much lighter side to the story, and a little bit of steam. Palmer is a lover of AFL and that shines through in this one. It isn’t just that Jamie has brothers who play but Beth is a physiotherapist with a soul-deep love of the game, and a connection with it through her father. This opens the door to quite a bit of footy talk.
Palmer treats us to a few steamy scenes, and a few that are more sweet than steamy and I think those are the ones that I adored the most. I love that heat of intimacy and sensuality that is so much more than just skin deep.
I love everything about The Long Weekend and I’m sure readers everywhere will feel the same. If you are a fan of Palmer’s, this will not disappoint, and if you are new to her work this will make a great introduction.
The Long Weekend is read as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2021 but I have no idea what number I’m up to.
Thank you to the Publisher for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.