Books & Literature

Book Review: Annie Stanley, All At Sea, by Sue Teddern

CONTEMPORARY: Will losing her dad be the thing that finally prompts Annie Stanley to find herself? Only she could decide to say goodbye by stealing her father’s ashes and taking him on one last adventure . . .

An enjoyable story which takes the reader on a journey around the British Isles as one woman learns from her past so she can get on with her future.

British author Sue Teddern has many years of scriptwriting experience with shows such as Birds of a Feather and Homefront for television, plus several radio series. She has now made the transition to writing novels with her first book, Annie Stanley, All At Sea.

Annie Stanley, a woman in her 30s, is lost. Her father has suddenly passed away, not too many years after she had to say goodbye to her mum. Her dad’s new partner Bev now wants to spread her father’s ashes in a place that for Annie has no meaning: The Tyrol in Austria. So, Annie steals the ashes from a drawer and decides to take her father on one last trip around the British Isles, following a map on an old tea towel. 

Annie’s father spent his life listening to the shipping forecast, even though he lived in landlocked St Albans. Annie also grew up listening to it and feels that his final farewell needs to be somewhere he loved. For those readers who don’t know what the shipping forecast is, it is a BBC radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around Great Britain. So, following the shipping areas on the old tea towel makes perfect sense. Basing the story around the shipping forecast gives it a sense of place and purpose as the backdrop to the story is able to keep changing.

The story moves from the present to occasional moments in the past which help fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, Annie has not done very well in the last few years. She is alone, has given up her teaching job, and spends most days lying around her flat. This trip around the coast will give her the chance to work through her grief and anger, fix broken relationships with family and friends, and work out what and who she really wants in her life. 

Annie Stanley does some serious soul searching about her relationships: with her stepmother, sister, ex-boyfriend, and friends from the past. Has she always been a good friend, partner, and sister? It has been all too easy to blame everyone else, but time away may help Annie learn some home truths. This story is about reflecting on the past, love lost, friendships broken, and saying goodbye. It is about living life to the full and valuing the things that really matter. 

The author often references “the City”. One presumes this is London but the capital letter used for the word “city” does not seem necessary and is a little annoying. Also, several of the characters use the phrase: “ … so what it is is …” which, unfortunately, became irritating.

Annie Stanley, All At Sea is a lovely trip around Britain, with detailed descriptions of the coast and towns along the way. For those readers who have never been to these places, it may encourage you to travel there. 

The novel has a relatable central character and the other people have their own unique personalities. There are both funny and sad moments in this story and, even though Annie is both self-centred and thoughtless, she is endearing.

There is a sense of relief from Annie’s angst and indecision as the book comes to a close. This would make an enjoyable read on a holiday or when keeping warm in front of the fire.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Pan MacMillan
Released: July 2021
RRP: $32.99

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