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Funny, Hopeful, Big-Hearted: Review of When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

May 7, 2019

Even before she learnt that her husband was having an affair, Jenny Reynolds wasn’t enjoying the afternoon of February 23. It was a sticky, sweltering day, and she’d spent much of it on the phone to an irate, unpleasant woman who kept insisting that she had every right to fence off her neighbour’s driveway. The work of a building control officer was a thankless task some days.

No sooner had Jenny extricated herself from the annoying call with Mrs. Cotter, than the phone rang again and things went from bad to worse. She had a visitor, drawled Lyn the receptionist. Standing in the foyer and looking profoundly uncomfortable was her next-door neighbour, Andrew. ‘Christ,’ he said. ‘Right. So, um, I just found your husband in bed with my wife.’

How dare Dave do this to her? How dare he throw away their marriage, risk the life they’d built for themselves and their children? But as she probes further, Jenny discovers a more surprising truth: what she really feels is relief. She can’t remember the last time she felt genuinely happy with Dave. Truth is, they haven’t even been friends in the past few years.

For a few agonising months, Jenny and Dave talk things over. Jenny is worried about the kids, and Dave’s emotions range from frustration and blame to remorse and regret. It’s tough, but eventually Jenny makes up her mind. Dave’s infidelity was merely the icing on the cake, and their marriage isn’t worth saving. As Dave moves out and finds a new job, Jenny starts adjusting to life as a single mum and sole caretaker of the family farm.

At first, things are far harder than Jenny could have imagined. The children are desperately unhappy with the new arrangement and Jenny’s farming experience is patchy at best. At one point, it seems like she might even lose the farm. But when Jenny begins to find her feet again with the help of her ever-supportive parents, helpful new farmhand, Harry, and her gruff but attractive neighbour, Andrew, she realises that turning her life upside down might just have been the best thing she could have done…

A delightfully quirky and heartwarming tale about starting life afresh, the aptly named When It All Went to Custard is the fourth novel from bestselling New Zealand author, Danielle Hawkins. Hawkins lives on a farm herself, and her personal experiences lend authenticity to this story, with the joys and challenges of farm life vividly and engagingly depicted. The New Zealand landscape is a lovely backdrop for this story, and Hawkins brings the lush, rolling fields to life beautifully. Hawkins is also known for crafting witty dialogue, loveable characters and homey, warm worlds, and her gift is on full display in When It All Went to Custard.

While the story’s exploration of infidelity, marriage breakdown and single motherhood adds compelling depth, this is also a deeply optimistic tale, with Jenny taking all that life throws at her. From page one we are on her side: here is a woman who deserves a second chance at happiness if ever we’ve met one, and when she finally does find joy and contentment, you’ll feel like cheering.

Funny, hopeful and big-hearted, When It All Went to Custard is a story about family, farming, second chances, and finding your feet. Fans of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Cecelia Ahern are guaranteed to love it.

About the author:

Bestselling NZ author Danielle Hawkins lives on a sheep and beef farm near Otorohanga with her husband and two children. She works part-time as a large animal vet, and writes when the kids are at school and she’s not required for farming purposes. She is a keen gardener, an intermittently keen cook and an avid reader. Her other talents include memorising poetry, making bread and zapping flies with an electric fly swat. She tends to exaggerate to improve a story, with the result that her husband believes almost nothing she says. Danielle has written four novels: Dinner at Rose’s, Chocolate Cake for Breakfast, The Pretty Delicious Cafe and When It All Went to Custard.

Buy a copy of When It All Went to Custard here.


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