Steve lovell's Reviews > The Briny Cafe

The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan
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's review
Mar 09, 2012

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Read in March, 2012

The author of this salty saga is no wordsmith of more than average skill. There are more clichés per page here than you’d find in whole books, and her characters are decidedly stereotypically one-dimensional. But the novel, Duncan’s first, works, and that is because it possesses what many efforts of supposedly more literary merit lack, and that is a heart. She first captures and then charms the reader with the sheer inherent goodness of both her characters and her storyline. We cannot help but care for her people, and therefore we need to read on to discover how it all pans out for them. The narrative rollicks along at a heady pace, and we can almost taste the sea spray as well as the aromas from the eponymous café. This is a good book, almost ‘Sea Change’ revisited.
In it we have the required mix of small community types. There’s a sea-faring manly man who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em. There’s a domestic goddess for whom the chips finally fall favourably. Throw in a new comer, Kate, wanting a new life in this off-shore community. She’s feisty but will she possess the chops to be accepted. Perhaps Duncan’s most successful protagonist is ever-bouncing Jimmy, a lad ‘not quite the full quid.’ To provide a balance, another ingredient is a dastardly interloper corrupting the local kids. The Briny in itself is a major character being the fulcrum of this sun-blasted island community as it morphs from a bit of a dive to something a tad more worthy. Duncan mixes in a wedding, a funeral, changes in the weather and extracts from the local folksy rag to top up this light read for pleasant times.
The author won over this reader for all of the above, plus naming the compulsory canine Boag after my own island’s very famous drop, and for knowing who Tom Russell was. She did pinch our Wineglass Bay however! The only bit that was a tad confusing was the introduction of a brother for Kate late in the piece who neither appears, nor seemingly has a role. Perhaps a sequel is in the offing.
Are there places like Cook’s Basin (or indeed a Pearl Bay) still around our increasingly developed coastline? I’d have no trouble pointing them out around Tasmania’s rim – Bruny Island, Trial Harbour, Sisters Beach etc – but what of the Mainland? One hopes that in nooks and crannies there still exist such places.
All in all this is a delightful, rewarding excursion away from the mundane – it’s what all communities should be about and it tells us we’re never to old for love or taking a risk in life. Well done Susan Duncan. Rating 3.5
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