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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  157 ratings  ·  56 reviews
With sea-salt authenticity, Belinda Castles sets the Bright family in the sprawling paradise of Bilgola Beach. But darkness is found both in the iconic setting as well as in the disturbing behaviour of one of the family.

As he tilted the blinds she saw her mother in her tennis whites, standing at the kitchen bench, staring out into the dark bushland that bordered their hous
Paperback, 250 pages
Published June 1st 2018 by Allen & Unwin
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  157 ratings  ·  56 reviews

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Charlie Bright was not always an easy man to live with. His wife Tricia and their children Louisa, Jack and Phoebe knew when his moods were bad it was best to stay away from him and when his mood was good the family were happy and a lot more relaxed.

Moving to a cliff top beach shack which Charlie had purchased had surprised the entire family. The house itself needed sprucing up a little, but scenery around them made up for whatever the house lacked. Although it was a great home for relaxation i
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
Belinda Castles, the 2006 Australian/Vogel prize recipient for The River Baptists, has released a brand new novel, Bluebottle. A coastal cliff side home, a family under the mounting weight of secrets and a convergence between the past with the present defines this intense novel.

Twenty years ago, siblings Jack, Lou and Phoebe cast doubt on the strange behaviour of their father one hot Christmas holiday. The Bright family have recently acquired a cliff top bea
Louisa, Jack and Phoebe moved to the beachside shack with their parents Charlie and Tricia just before Christmas one year – Charlie had surprised them with the house, as he was wont to do, and though old with formica bench tops and ugly green carpet, the view and the vicinity of the beach made it ideal for the family. Charlie was unpredictable, and the family had all learned to be careful around him until they knew his mood. When he was happy, everyone was happy – when he was dark and volatile, ...more

This book grabbed me from the opening paragraph and did not let me go - and I’m still thinking about it long after I finished it.

As I was given this uncorrected proof copy by the publishers, Allen & Unwin, I hope to write a review which does justice to the fine qualities of the novel.

In many passages the language is so eloquent and lyrical, particularly in the evocation of the sea and the seaside community in which the story takes place. The first sentence of my proof copy is a gem:
Dale Harcombe
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
A cliff top fibro cottage on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is the scene for this novel about a family and events from the past that still colour their lives twenty years later. The Bright parents are Charlie, who is at best erratic in his behaviour and his wife Tricia. The children are Louisa, Jack and Phoebe. Back when they were children, Monica, a young girl, goes missing. Could Charlie have anything to do with it? Jack and Lou wonder as Charlie’s behaviour seems to indicate he is somehow involved ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ozzie-gems
The sea and its majesty is the endearing backdrop for this endearing and at times unsettling story of family and futures molded by the past. In 1994 architect Charlie Bright and his wife Tricia and children Louisa, Jack and Phoebe are spending Christmas and Boxing Day on Sydney’s Barrenjoey peninsula. Charlie has big plans for their cliff-top shack, but it is his instability that is causing concern for the kids. This will be exasperated by the disappearance of a young local girl and the fixation ...more
This was one of those books where I kind of enjoyed it but also kind of had no idea what the point was?

We've got alternating viewpoints between 'Boxing Day' and 'Afterwards' to keep things interesting, and it centres on the Bright family and their rather strange father, Charlie. A girl has gone missing, and Charlie's behaviour seems rather odd, which gives the two teenage children, Louisa and Jack, some concerns. In the present day, they family all have their own lives, but are still close both
Jeanette Lewis
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aussie-authors
I know this place, childhood memories come flooding into my head as I read this book. Anywhere there is surf and beaches the smell of salt air, experienced particularly as a child never leave you. This author has woven this family’s tale around the beaches of Sydney. It is basically a book on family relationships, however the descriptions of the environment where this family move to give it true colour. The family endure the moods of the father which appears to be on the Asperger Syndrome, errat ...more
Theresa Smith Writes
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s probably best if I just state up front that I loved Bluebottle. That way you’ll be prepared for all of the praise I’m about to heap on it and the quotes that I absolutely have to include because they demonstrate the utter perfection of this novel. Belinda Castles is a word master, she just has that magic ability to string words together in a way that results in a symphony of narration that is precise and intuitive.

“She raised a hand when she said hello, even if she was right in front of you
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5 I didn’t appreciate or enjoy much of this. It’s a family secrets story with two timelines. I didn’t engage with the characters and I found the writing a little dull. Structurally I appreciated the reveals but otherwise this left me pretty cold.
Natalie Mullan
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The beautiful cover and blurb grabbed my attention but sadly my expectations were not entirely met. The story literally jumps between events in the here and now, and 20 years ago. Unfortunately the disconnection between time periods failed to enhance the plot, rather creating confusion- that what/when am I reading feeling!
The writing style is descriptive and quite beautiful at times but it floats around. The characters are enjoyable but not nearly as remarkable as they could have been. Charlie (
Debbie Robson
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boxing Day 2018 has not long passed and this reminded me of the important events of Boxing Day in Belinda Castle’s Bluebottle. Has there ever been such a wonderful evocation of the northern beaches? It is a place I know well, having grown up in Newport during the 1970s.
Bluebottle is set in two timeframes. The earlier timeframe concerns events depicted on Christmas Day and Boxing Day of 1994. Afterwards is set in the present day and at the first switch to this timeframe I marvelled at how effecti
Sharah McConville
Bluebottle is an interesting mystery novel by Australian author Belinda Castles. Thank you to Allen and Unwin for my ARC.
Jazzy Lemon
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of independent film, and my son hates them, he says they're boring, that nothing ever happens. That doesn't mean they're not good though. This book is like that. A story of a family who move to a beach house on the cliffs in Australia where the surfing and the swimming are great. But something does happen.
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Very evocative of the Sydney northern beaches. There's some lovely writing in this, the story moves along and while there was the absence of a character to be explained it kept me guessing until the end. It held my interest and I'll be looking out for more by Belinda Castles, she was a new author to me. It's an ARC I received thanks to Allen and Unwin, that I plan to share with others either through Canberra Chatters or Bookcrossing.
Amy Heap
Bluebottle is a quiet, leisurely paced book about the lasting power of family ties and secrets. Charlie is a difficult man to live with; his wife and children must tiptoe around his swinging moods. Something happens one Christmas that is still affecting them twenty years later. Set on Sydney’s northern beaches, the heat, ocean and rain are palpable, as is the tension in the siblings.
Kimberley Starr
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lyrical novel of memories and regrets that starts off like a thriller and ends up being about the incredible depth of emotion within a family, the repercussions of mental illness and awful suspicion, and the beautiful suggestion of forgiveness and hope among siblings.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Easy read with an underlying mystery that keep you guessing.
Lesley Moseley
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Once the beginning lumpy-ness settled down, I really thought this was a very well-written book. The characters were so skillfully sketched, they all rang very true. I first thought the ending a bit tepid, but given all the characters true natures, I realised it was really clever and satisfying.
Jo Rushby
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was given this ARC book from Allen & Unwin for an honest review. I loved this story set in -1970's.The Bright family buy a house on a clifftop overlooking the sea.
There is a missing teenage girl and everyone is out looking for her.
Charlie Bright the erratic father has the family walking on eggshells with his moods. Twenty years later the family come together to relive the past.
Belinda Castles writes lovely descriptive words where I could feel that hot sand under my feet on a scorching su
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Allen and Unwin for the advanced readers copy. I really enjoyed this novel. It kept me guessing up until the last couple of pages as to what were the circumstances behind both family tragedies. ( No spoilers). The underlying themes of mystery and mental health issues melded well. It was an easy read and I have discovered a new Australian writer.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review to appear on blog on the 23rd of May.
Sam Still Reading
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of cleverly written thrillers
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: from the publisher
I seem to have a thing for picking out hot summer stories in the middle of winter. Bluebottle is a tense mystery crackling with domestic dramas, which are illuminated further by the sultry summer weather it takes place in. It’s a mystery that is as gripping as it is uncomfortable as every character adds their version of what happened in the Bright family that Boxing Day years ago.

The novel moves between Christmas and Boxing Days in that past year to the present. The Bright children (a lovely sun
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Full review can be found at

The author Belinda Castles certainly made me feel certain I knew the direction of the story, up until the very end. This could go one of two ways for readers, one being that the reader thinks they know what is going to happen so gives up on it, or they will go the way I did. I am glad that I plugged on with it, and towards the middle I couldn’t put it down as I wanted to see that I was right. I loved being wrong, It was pertinent
Tony Nielsen
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Belinda Castles is building a reputation as one of Australia's best fiction voices, although her output is rather sparse. She won the Australian's Literary award for "The River Baptists" in 2006, was dubbed one of the country's best young novelists by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2008, and "Hannah and Emil" brought more acclaim and awards following its release in 2012.

In "Bluebottle" Belinda Castles has created an intense story based around a Sydney family, a story that's fraught by the past, an
Brooke - One Woman's Brief Book Reviews

*2.5 stars*

Bluebottle by Belinda Castles. (2018).

Jack and Lou are teenage brother and sister who one day become suspicious of their father's unpredictable behaviour after he moves the family out of the blue to a small home on a cliff overlooking the ocean. A girl they know has disappeared; on this particular day Jack has panic attacks, Lou is rebelling and their little sister Phoebe is attention-seeking which is all leading the family towards revelation. 20 years la
Alexandra Daw
This is a story that will appeal to mystery lovers and those who like stories about family dynamics. Set on the northern beaches of Sydney, many Australian readers will enjoy reading about familiar landscapes and climate. In many ways this is a coming age of age story. I found the characters were flinty and somewhat weather beaten - worn down by their own inner battles as well as the elements. I think it might make a good book club book because in some way the author told us enough but not too m ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've said it before and i'll say it again - I freaking love reading Australian fiction! Belinda Castles' new novel is set on Boxing Day at Bigola which is part of Sydney's Northern Beaches and she evokes the setting so richly that I could almost feel the heavyness of the coastal air during our Summer storm season. Castles is a master of the beachscape and if you've never experienced the glorious beaches we have in Australia, this is a good primer. The story itself is a mystery that revolves arou ...more
Rachael Bettiens
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The Northern Beaches are depicted beautifully in Bluebottle, with the beach and cliff setting and the fibro house, in which the Bright family live out a very long and dramtic Boxing Day, probably the strongest characterisation in this novel.

The novel begins in Jack, Louisa and Phoebe's childhood, as a neighbourhood school kid is missing, as their father Charlie's behaviour becomes more and more erratic over Boxing Day, as he spirals with some form of undisclosed mental health issue. Then we're i
2.5 stars

Finished reading: Bluebottle / Belinda Castles ... 06 July, 2018
ISBN : 9781760632847 ... 247 pp

What happened over Christmas and Boxing Days 20 years ago? This book goes back and forth in time, picking apart the events of the past, a missing girl, a mercurial father, family and friend relationships of both adults and children. The main characters are well drawn in this not-quite-moving account of the past explaining the present and perhaps opening up a new future.

Any one who likes pictur
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