Books & Literature

Book Review: The Summer Job, by Lizzy Dent

ROMANCE: Can Birdy carry off a summer pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert)? And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else)?

A witty read that's both hilarious and insightful with just the right amount of Spring fling romance.

Fiction debut, The Summer Job, from Aussie writer, Lizzie Dent, perfectly mixes wit, fun, and secret identities with darker issues. Set in Scotland where Dent spent her twenties working in places like the fictional luxury hotel, Loch Dorn, her personal experience is evident. Protagonist Birdy — so nicknamed due to her last name ‘Finch’ — is a cynical, chronic underachiever with low self-esteem, largely as the result of a less-than-perfect upbringing. Birdy’s best friend, Heather, is her substitute family and roommate, a mutual arrangement for Heather who was orphaned at a young age. The two besties adore each other, however, while Heather has achieved career success as a highly trained sommelier (wine expert), Birdy floats from dead-end-job to dead-end-job, settling for what she believes she deserves. 

When Heather opts out of a summer job at Loch Dorn in favour of a summer with her new beau, Birdy, facing potential homelessness, impersonates Heather to land the gig. After all, she’s waitressed before; how hard can it be? Plenty hard, as it turns out. Far from the run-down, out-of-the way family pub she’s expecting, Loch Dorn is undergoing a million-dollar makeover and requires a world-class sommelier. Well, at least Birdy knows her whites from her reds … sort of.

Most of the enjoyment in this story comes from the hilarious, smart-mouthed Birdy and the positive effect that, despite herself, she has on the rag-tag crew at Loch Dorn. There’s posh barman, Bill, who harbours his own demons, motherly manager, Irene, who collects stragglers, starry-eyed waitress, Roxy, who looks up to Birdy, conceited Michelin Star chef, Russel, and, saving the best till last, hot nice-guy chef, James. 

Dent balances the tension between Birdy maintaining her pretence and the ever-increasing stakes of discovery, while presenting an imperfect, but relatable and sympathetic, underdog. Ultimately, this is a story of self-discovery and redemption, with the perfect smattering of romance and witty dialogue. Scenes focusing on food preparation and the pairing of wines are graphic and plentiful and should come with a ‘may make you want to break your diet’ warning.

Dent’s writing is crisp and well crafted, the Scottish setting is evocatively drawn, and secondary characters all earn their place. This is the type of book that will appeal to those who enjoy quality women’s fiction that manages to be simultaneously fun while dealing with darker issues. There were several spots where the pace slowed and could have done with some tightening up but, overall, this is an impressive debut and hopefully the start of a long writing career for Dent. Give us more characters like Birdy and the cast of Loch Dorn please, Ms Dent.

Reviewed by Samantha Bond
Twitter: @SamStaceyBond

Distributed by: Penguin Australia
Released: 13 April 2021
RRP: $32.99

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