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Beautifully Written, Incredibly Moving: Read an Extract from Mary Moody’s, The Accidental Tour Guide

October 8, 2019

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The Year of Magical Thinking meets Salvation Creek in a powerful memoir of love, loss and discovery – the third act in an extraordinary life.

Mary Moody’s bestselling memoirs about her adventures in France, Au Revoir and Last Tango in Toulouse, inspired thousands of women. Mary was a presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, but it was through her well-loved bestsellers that we really got to know her intimately and embarked on a journey with her not only geographically, but internally. We related to her.

Once again, Mary provides another wonderful read – part memoir, part travel adventure, where we journey with her not only to far-flung places, but also into her most private moments and what she discovered there. The Accidental Tour Guide completes the circle that began in her earlier books, by sharing another major turning point in her life.

The Accidental Tour Guide opens with one of the most powerful chapters I’ve read in a long time. I knew that this book was about when Mary lost her beloved husband, and how her world turned upside down. That’s on the back-matter. However, I didn’t expect to be howling at page two – but I was. I won’t give too much away here, as I don’t want to ruin the moment of those first few profound, incredibly moving pages. Needless to say, this book grabs you from the opening page and takes you on an incredible journey.

Mary revisits her relationship with David, painting a vivid picture of their love, without ever over-romanticising it. And yet in doing so, she exquisitely describes the beauty in this decades long love. The story switches from when they first fall in love, to their early years, to David’s cancer diagnosis and how he dealt with it. In one brilliant section, she describes how a cancer counsellor visited the home to ask him how he was dealing with his inevitable demise and David’s melodramatic response was to recite Dylan Thomas to her:


Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

She writes about grief with brutal honestly, the aftermath of David’s death and how she re-built her life. David’s death wasn’t the only one she experienced at this time – she also lost her sister Margaret, so in this book she explores the many faces of grief. Part of her journey to reignite her passion for living is to boldly go where she has never been before – in her travels and in her everyday life. The book is imbued with her passion for travel and gardening.

The Accidental Tour Guide is a powerful, moving and inspiring true story about how to rebuild your life without the people who matter most. Moody is skilled at delivering an honest, entertaining tale, never shying away from baring her soul on the page and here is no exception.

The book is beautifully written, incredibly moving, and profound in its often-ordinary details – she is a master of the mundane. While her adventures are often grand, it’s the delivery of the everyday moments with family and her loved ones, and especially David, that really is the greatest adventure.

The Accidental Tour Guide is not only an important book for Mary to write, but for the many readers who have come this far on her journey to read. Heartbreaking, hopeful and ultimately a very empowering memoir.

Buy a copy of The Accidental Tour Guide here.

About Mary Moody

Mary trained as a journalist on Australian Women’s Weekly in the late 1960s and spent several years as a reporter and feature writer on various Sydney magazines and newspapers.

In the 1970s Mary moved to Leura in the Blue Mountains with her young family, and became a passionate organic gardener. She used her journalistic skills to write and edit more than forty gardening books and magazines, and for ten years she was the NSW presenter on the ABC’s top rating show Gardening Australia.

In 2000 Mary spent six months living alone in a small room in a medieval town in southwest France. At the end of her sabbatical she bought a nearby village house that she still visits every year. She wrote four memoirs about her experiences as an Australian woman living part time in France, as well as a cookbook and several new gardening books.

Mary’s passions are still family, food, gardening and travel. She leads tours in France and the Himalayas and has written a book and made a film on a local rural French restaurant, ‘Lunch with Madame Murat’, for the SBS Network.

After the death of her husband David Hannay in 2014, Mary sold the farm where they had lived for 15 years and moved back to the Mountains where she is developing a large garden in an extended family home with her son Ethan, his partner Lynne and their three children. She now has eleven grandchildren.


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