Book Review: The Briny Cafe

Every year, the Salisbury Library has a ‘One Book, One Salisbury’ program, where they promote a book and encourage locals to read it and then attend a session with the author. This year, that book was The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan, so I thought I would give it a go. It’s not normally the type of book I would pick up and read, but my time in the book club has taught me that sometimes those books are the gems. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time.

As a reader, I don’t enjoy stereotypes or cliches, and this book was riddled with both. Ettie lives in Cook’s Basin, a fictional coastal town, where she dreams of escape from the drudgery of her life. Kate has left the city and recently moved to the town, trying to find her new beginnings and happiness. Sam is the local good guy, with no more depth I can write about. Every single character is a cliche.

In a remarkable twist of fate, Ettie inherits the run-down Briny Cafe from the previous proprietor who has come down with cancer and doesn’t have any family he wants to pass it on to. But oh no, Ettie needs a partner to keep it running. Lucky Kate wants a fresh start! Oh and Sam and Kate just are so different there’s no way they’d ever get together. Oh, but they do! And of course, the handsome French ex-chef who lives in the town falls madly in love with Ettie. It’s all so sickeningly perfect!

More examples of annoying writing follow. The dialogue is god-awful. Apparently all Australian country towns are filled with people stuck in the lingo of Alf from Home and Away. Even the narrator (a third-person narrator, mind you) referred to ‘togs’ and ‘blokes’ and other things that made me want to throw the book across the room. Then there were the inconsistent character behaviours. Sam’s dog gets killed and the guy who finds it has such an extreme reaction to the dead dog he is in bed depressed about it. Kate hesitates over becoming Ettie’s partner in the cafe and is told to sleep on it, only to have Sam yell at her over choosing to sleep on the decision. Really?!

Upon reflection, I’m not sure why I didn’t give this book 1 star and add it to my list of books I thoroughly dislike. I can only assume there was some redeeming quality I struggle to recall now. Perhaps I am just not built for this kind of book. I prefer reading about real people with real problems (that’s why Freedom and Cloudstreet are two of my favourites), so I guess this book is better suited to those who like a light read and don’t mind cliched writing.

The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan – 2 out of 5 stars.

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