This year has been a great one for new Australian women's voices, and Meg Bignall is yet another addition.
This year has been a great one for new Australian women’s voices, and Meg Bignall is yet another addition to the brilliant debut author offerings hitting our shelves (or Kindles, however you like it!).
The Sparkle Pages is a deceptive tome. Its cover conveys light women’s fiction bordering into the territory of chic lit romance. And to a degree this is true however, The Sparkle Pages is far more than that. In this modernised take on the Bridget Jones’ Diary confessional style, highly-strung protagonist, Susannah Parks, records her year dedicated to ‘the sparkle project’. A married mother of four, Susannah’s days are filled with child rearing, self-doubt and the fear that the spark in her marriage has disappeared.
Through her diary, Susannah recounts her trials as an over-worked mother, and her attempts to create spark in her marriage again. She met Hugh, the man who fills her heart with passion and her laundry basket with shirts, at university and some of the story is dedicated to recounting how they fell in love and came to be living the ‘happily ever after’ (romance component for those of us who love that stuff).
The book investigates the idea that there is ever a ‘happily ever after’ for romantic couples, a brave and relatable concept for anyone who’s ever experienced ‘monotony ever after’. There is also a darker, mystery streak: Susannah was once a brilliant musician who, for some reason, has abandoned her viola. She tells the world it’s because of her many children and duties towards them, but the reality is a much harsher twist.
Not just full of mum tales, The Sparkle Pages presents Susannah’s struggles with family and elderly sick neighbours, her lifelong friendship with fellow musician, Ria, who has gone on to international fame and her relationship with Hugh, twenty years after the start of love. There’s an obvious target market for this book: married women with kids. As one of those, I related strongly to all her parenting and marriage issues. If you’re younger, unattached and childless, this could be read as a warning tale!
The Sparkle Pages is witty, light, dark and insightfully addictive all at once. My only criticism is that, at times, Susannah’s ongoing clumsiness and self-deprecation does become grating. But, overall, this is simply a lovely, wonderful story that literally had me in tears several times. I’ll not say why, that would ruin it for you, but trust me, stock up on tissues. Can’t wait for more from the wonderfully talented Meg Bignell.
Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: April 2019
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $19.99 paperback, $12.99 eBook