Books & Literature

Book Review: Till Death or a Little Light Maiming Do Us Part, by Kathy Lette

GENERAL FICTON: When Jason Riley goes missing, feared killed by a shark, his family–make that families–have many questions

A light revenge story for those who enjoy a fun romp around the world.

Australian author and comic writer Kathy Lette is well known to most Australians firstly for her huge success with the novel Puberty Blues, then her newspaper column and subsequent novels. 

Lette usually writes about women, and as she has grown older, so have her leading female characters. In this new novel she explores cheating, betrayal, women being victims of scams, and the relationships between woman and how they can support each other.

It is the story of Gwen, a 60-year-old happily married high school teacher who lives a non-eventful, predicable life. One morning she hears a report about a man being taken by a great white shark and discovers that all that is left of her beloved and very handsome husband of three years are his swimming cap and a piece of torn wetsuit covered in blood. As grief-stricken Gwen tries to take in the devastating news, another woman, Tish, arrives on a motorbike declaring the deceased is also her husband.

After realising that Jason Riley was actually married to them both, and had managed to divest both women of all their savings, the women decide to band together. They discover that Jason had sent the money to a business partner in Cairo so Gwen and Tish embark on a journey across the world to try and get their money (and dignity) back.

And so begins a crazy travelogue around the world as we follow two women who are seemingly totally incompatible, following the money trail and their obviously not-dead husband.

Timid Gwen has to overcome her total fear of flying, moving out of her comfort zone and a crazy, raunchy sidekick who is a law unto herself, particularly when it comes to getting behind the steering wheel of a car. But transport is not just limited to air and road. They also catch trains, ride bicycles, travel on ships and travel in safari jeeps.

This absurd plot is full of conflict between the women as they constantly try to find a compromise in their outlook on life. Their dialogue is mostly made up of arguments, one liners and innuendos, but the sometimes-coarse language may not be for everyone.

Unfortunately, Till Death or a Little Light Maiming Do Us Part becomes very repetitive as they travel from place to place. The farcical plot became a bit of a ramble. At 320 pages, it is probably a bit too long. The implausible plot twists and scenic side trips, while sometimes amusing and educational, do nothing to help the story line.

If you enjoy a travelogue, Lette takes us to lots of beautiful places around the world describing many of them in great detail. As readers, we discover places like Egypt, the Serengeti, the Maldives, and Paris, as Gwen narrates what she sees and some history about each place.

The overarching theme is that women can be brave and overcome their fears. They can choose to be whoever they want and friends can be found in the strangest of places.

Till Death or a Little Light Maiming Do Us Part would make a nice holiday read for those who don’t want anything too heavy.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: March 2022
RRP: $32.99

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