“TUMBLEDOWN MANOR” follows the adventures of a woman who reinvents herself after a disastrous 50th birthday. A novelist, she packs up her life in New York and moves back to her native Australia.
Don’t you just love it when a book comes along that you are exactly in the mood for? This happened to me when I started reading “Tumbledown Manor“. I found this debut novel to be heart-warming, life-affirming, strong women’s fiction. An excellent read!
Lisa Katz (nee Trumperton) is a novelist who is working on a three book deal of historical romances based on the lives of the three Brontë sisters. Happily (she thinks) married, a cancer survivor, and the mother of two grown children, she feels that, all-in-all, life is good.
On Lisa’s 50th birthday, she is made aware of her husband’s infidelity. She realizes that Jake has been unfaithful since shortly after her mastectomy surgery. Never vain, Lisa did not have reconstructive surgery after the removal of her breast. She thought Jake was fine with her new ‘look’. Apparently she was sadly mistaken. With her trust and her married life shattered, her home on the Upper East Side no longer has the appeal it once had. She feels unwanted, unloved, and abandoned – and hates herself for her own self-pity.
“It occurred to Lisa that only old people and babies could light up spaces with smiles that were incandescent.”
She never felt completely ‘at home’ in New York and always felt she was a big-boned Aussie girl. So… what better time to go back to the country of her birth? She changes her name from Lisa Katz back to Lisa Trumperton and moves home to Australia.
“Lisa buying back her heritage”.
Against her sister’s advice, she purchases the neglected and run-down family home. Trumperton Manor. Built in 1860, the manor needs lots of TLC and money spent on its repair and refurbishment. Lisa feels a real connection to the place and purchasing it has magically seemed to cure her writer’s block.
Her son, Ted, is gay, and living in Australia. She is delighted to see more of him after her move. She is also delighted to meet his new love. Her daughter Portia, lives in California. Lisa is constantly worried at Portia’s lifestyle and her more and more apparent anorexia.
After her move she adopts Mojo, “the ugliest, most bad-tempered looking cat in the world”. With only one eye, his life as a stray has made him wary and volitile. Yet Lisa befriends him and the two become fast friends. Lisa also becomes ‘parent’ to an injured cockatoo whom she names Kiwi.
Because of the extensive renovations needed, she meets an ‘able’ neighbour whom she finds a little more than attractive. Though, like most people in middle age, he has his own baggage. She also becomes acquainted with the ‘Grey Army’, a group of retired tradesmen who lend a hand in bringing the manor back to its former glory.
“Tumbledown Manor” was laced with tidbits of information about the Brontë sisters which I found very interesting.
This book was written with empathy, compassion, and humour. Although it was fairly predictable plot-wise, I found that predictability did not mar my enjoyment of the novel in any way. This is women’s fiction laced liberally with family secrets, humour, animals, and new beginnings. It was the perfect read for me at just the perfect time.
I loved Lisa and her quirky pets. I’d love to visit with them again, but the ending ties things up neatly, so I guess my invitation won’t be coming…
Helen Brown was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where her father managed the local gas works. After an unremarkable school career, she followed her mother’s footsteps into journalism.
She moved to the UK in the early ‘70s to become a teenage bride and work on The Woking Review along with other magazines. When the couple returned to New Zealand to have two sons, Sam and Rob, Helen started writing regular columns about so-called ordinary life. She also wrote television scripts, current affairs for national radio and was a regular guest on TVNZ’s Beauty and the Beast.
Her life was torn apart on January 21, 1983, when Sam, aged nine, was run over and killed. Amid the emotional devastation, a black kitten called Cleo was delivered to her doorstep. Cleo helped the shattered family take the first steps toward healing.
After Lydia’s birth in 1985, the family moved to Auckland where Helen worked as a feature writer for the Sunday Star. Her columns were collected in a series of eight books. She was awarded a Nuffield Press Fellowship to Cambridge University, UK.
Following her divorce, Helen met a handsome ex army officer who was meant to be a one night stand. They married in Switzerland and had a daughter, Katharine. Twenty five years later, Helen and Philip are still together, surely creating the longest one night stand in history.
Helen lives in Melbourne, Australia, with Philip and their crazy, blog- obsessed cat, Jonah. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys making lemon slice with her adorable grand daughters, Annie and Stella.