Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas
Novel set in Adelaide (“..once a cheat, always a cheat..”)
30th October 2015
The Sun In Her Eyes by Paige Toon, novel set in Adelaide.
What I love about working on TripFiction is that I discover new authors, and authors who create books where setting is strong and evocative, as well as writing a good storyline…. there are so many authors out there, it is all to easy to settle into a comfortable groove of the familiar. So, I was excited to discover author Paige Toon who has written several books. The Sun In Her Eyes is the first I have read, but certainly will not be the last.
Amber was a tiny girl when a car accident killed her mother, she was in the car at the time. Glimpses of memory occasionally penetrate her consciousness, but no real concrete memories evolve that she can really grasp. Amber’s life in London, with husband Ned is pretty humdrum until she gets the dreaded phonecall that her father in Adelaide has suffered a stroke. A good 24 hours later she has landed in Australia and is on her way to visit her father in hospital. As he recuperates, Amber finds she has a bit more time on her hands and finds herself drawn to old flame Ethan, the subject of unrequited passion in her younger years; he happens to be newly separated from the mother of his children. As Ethan’s flame grows, Ned’s flame splutters, but how will things pan out?
Ethan takes centre stage as Amber finds her groove with her old friends. He may be in the wine business, running a family vineyard, but he has moments that leave the reader feeling so uncomfortable about his irascible personality – how he responds to his own children, for example. Frankly, I felt he was not a good enough prospect for dear Amber and it was well time to get over him. But she has to make her life choices… and does the old adage “..once a cheat, always a cheat..” really hold true????
Adelaide just comes alive in Paige’s competent hands, as Ethan and Amber look across the city: “The city of Adelaide stretches out before us, and in the far distance the pale blue sky seeps into the ocean in a barely distinguishable line. The clouds over our heads are dark and dramatic, turning brilliant orange the closer they hover to the city’s skyline. Even the obelisk, the soaring white column that was named after explorer Captain Matthew Flinders, is cast in an orange glow.” And there I was, with the characters in a city I have never actually visited. That is the gift of reading literature where location is a character in itself!
There is drama and romance aplenty, crafted in a very readable style. Enjoy!
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Meet the author – TripFiction talks to Paige Toon
TF: You travelled a great deal as a child, following your racing car father across continents. How has that experience coloured your writing do you feel?
PT: I was born in England, but grew up in Australia, where all of my family hails from, and we used to spend a chunk of every year in America when my dad was driving there, before his career took him to the UK instead. I live with my own family in the UK now, and was living and working in London when I got my book deal, but I wanted to write about Australia and a girl who was torn between two countries. I felt quite torn myself at the time, as my entire family had recently moved back to Australia. My parents lived in Adelaide, but I decided to set my first book (Lucy in the Sky) in Sydney, which is a more recognisable city to most people. I didn’t know Sydney well, so my mum and I went on a research trip and I worked out exactly where my characters lived, worked, played, etc. It massively brought the story to life for me, being able to walk in my heroine’s shoes, and lots of my reader reviews for the book said they felt like they had actually gone to the places I was writing about. I decided from that point on to visit my book settings and do research in person, and pretty much every family holiday since then has been dictated by where I’m going to set my next book: Los Angeles, Key West, Spain and the South of France, to name a few.
TF: The main character Amber can be assertive but she is in absolute thrall to ‘old flame’ Ethan; as the story progresses, I found myself really rooting for her. How did she evolve as a character?
PT: I think she grows up over the course of the book. She’s about to turn thirty, but when she goes home to Australia, in some ways she reverts to being the bratty teenager that she was when she left. She argues with her dad’s long-term partner, goes out late, drinking, to blow off steam, and finds herself at the point of no return with the man she first fell in love with. I think the stress of what’s happening with her dad has a lot to do with how she acts, but that’s no excusing her bad behavior when she has a husband at home in England! Hearing from the elderly lady who came across the car crash that killed her mother brings her back down to earth with a bump. But she still has a lot to contend with, even after she discovers her mother’s final words.
TF: You deal with the subject of “strokes” and provide quite a lot of informed background. How did you come to choose this particular condition for the book?
PT: The plot required an illness that might involve a long recuperation period – something that would require Amber to leave her husband behind in another country and go back home to be with her dad. I was very lucky to have help from Stroke Association and a lovely lady called Ali Murray, who not only came to my house armed with information, but who also read the book before anyone else to check I’d got my facts straight. I’m pleased to have been able to help raise awareness of strokes, because they affect a lot of young people too, and it’s important to know how to spot the symptoms and act quickly – the faster you call an ambulance, the more of the person you save. Please see www.stroke.org.co.uk for more information and remember the FAST test: If a person shows signs of Facial weakness, Arm weakness or Speech problems, then it’s Time to call 911 (999 in the UK).
TF: Having read the book I now feel I have just had a glimpse of what a terrific city Adelaide must be. How did you come to choose it as the setting for this book and do you have any top tips for visitors?
PT: I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, and when I first got my book deal I wanted to set a book there. In the end, my debut, Lucy in the Sky, is set half in Sydney and half in London, and I had to wait until my fourth book, Pictures of Lily, to write about Adelaide. I wanted to go back to my roots for The Sun in Her Eyes, too. I love Adelaide and still feel very connected to it. I was there recently and did a book signing and three of the readers there had travelled from interstate, armed with copies of Pictures of Lily and planning on doing a tour of the places I mention in the book. I was so touched. Maybe future signings will see people doing the same for The Sun in Her Eyes. I researched a lot of bars – that was fun! – and some beautiful wineries, too. Most of the places mentioned in the book are real.
TF: What are you working on now and will setting be a strong feature?
PT: I’m writing a book called The Man We Fell in Love With, which is about identical triplets who all fell in love with the same person when they were seventeen. Now in their late twenties, one of them is marrying him. One of the triplets begins her journey in Chamonix, where we holidayed last summer, and she also had a gap year there when she was eighteen, so the Alps feature heavily in the book. My husband and I loved the mountains so much that we’re actually returning there next summer.
TF: Of all the books you have written so far, do you have a particular favourite?
PT: Often I’ve felt that the book I’m currently writing is my favourite, but when I read Pictures of Lily again a few years ago, I had a real soft spot for it, partly because it was set in the Adelaide Hills where I grew up. It’s sort of like a love letter to my hometown. My readers recently voted Chasing Daisy as their favourite – my character, Daisy, works in hospitality for a Formula 1 team and falls in love with a racing driver, so she goes all around the world on the racing circuit. I think I have more five-star reviews for The Longest Holiday than any of my other books, though – that one is set in Key West and features a hot Cuban-American scuba diver!
TF: Where will your personal travels take you next?
PT: We’re going to Thailand this Christmas, meeting up with my parents and brother and his family. It will be the first time I’ve been there, so I’m really looking forward to seeing the beaches and scenery. I’m sure a chapter or two will end up in a future book – they usually do.
TF: Which books are currently on your TBR pile?
PT: Along with my yearly women’s fiction novels, I’m also writing a series for young adults about a 15-year-old rock star’s daughter. It’s set partly in LA and San Francisco and partly in the UK. I’ve been reading a lot of young adult books this summer to prepare for the writing of book three this autumn, and my TBR pile still includes Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider and Gayle Forman’s I Was Here. I’m also keen to read Trust by Mike Bullen, the creator of Cold Feet. I was sent it recently – part of the perks of the job!
A big thank you to Paige for chatting to us!
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