In Susan Johnson’s latest novel, The Landing, the journalist and writer shows that she is very accomplished at her craft. Johnson has a way with words and the ability to observe and write about things that other people take for granted. The only problem is that this slow-burning, nuanced book could do with some improvements to the structure to ensure it is a tighter and more cohesive read overall.
The novel begins when we are introduced to Jonathan Lott, a man whose wife of decades has left him for another woman. The blurb even imitates Jane Austen by asking the following question: “Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife?” Lott has returned to the coastal Queensland town of The Landing, where a tight-knit community of eccentrics like to know everything about each other’s business.
The other characters in the book are Penny Collins, a divorced art teacher who is forced to care for her elderly French mother, Marie after the latter is kicked out of her umpteenth nursing home. Penny’s daughter, Scarlett is also causing problems because she ran off with an older man and is now a mother to two young children. There is also a neighbour named Gordie and his adult daughter, Anna who has returned home and leaves a trail of broken marriages in her wake. There is also a seven-year-old named Giselle who likes caring for young children even though she is quite young and innocent herself.
These characters are all quite different and quirky and some will resonate more with different readers than others. At times Johnson’s writing style is very reminiscent of the UK TV series, The Office in that it revels in everyday life situations and occasionally makes funny and pithy observations amidst monotony and tedium. This will be a joy for some readers while others will find the pacing a tad too slow and boring, while the large cast can also makes things feel rather disjointed, lightweight and incohesive at times.
Susan Johnson has a keen eye for writing about relationships and family dramas as well as adding in some interesting and wry observations. Her book is a quaint and easy read that feels rather honest and relatable in parts. While it is by no means perfect it does manage to charm readers with the adventures of a bunch of small-town eccentrics and their seemingly quiet and ordinary private lives.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/landing/9497046