cover image The Way from Here

The Way from Here

Jane Cockram. Harper, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-293932-6

The sumptuous if implausible latest by Australian novelist Cockram (The House of Brides) follows its middle-aged housewife protagonist from Australia to England and an idyllic island off the coast of France on a mission dictated by letters from her late sister. Camilla Anderson’s adventurous younger sister Susie dies from a fall while hanging Christmas lights, leaving Camilla a series of letters that were to be read upon her death. The letters recount 19-year-old Susie’s trip to Europe in 1998, where she fell in love a couple times before returning unhappily to Australia. Now, Camilla retraces Susie’s steps and discovers surprising secrets kept by Susie and their mother, Margaret. It turns out both women held ties to the family of upper-class, reserved David, whom Susie first met at a London museum. The sensual story of Susie’s youth on a Mediterranean island, where Camilla is instructed to scatter some of Susie’s ashes, is a delectable treat, but the convoluted layers of connections between David’s patrician family and Susie’s middle-class one strain credulity, as does the narrative device of having Susie, who was not ill or expecting to die, write letters sending her sister on a wild goose chase. The sun-soaked atmosphere has its charm, more so if one doesn’t try to make sense of the plot. (Mar.)