Amanda Hampson grew up in rural New Zealand. She spent her early twenties travelling, finally settling in Australia in 1979 where she now lives in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Writing professionally for more than 20 years, she is the author of two non-fiction books, numerous articles and novels The Olive Sisters, Two for the Road, The French Perfumer and The Yellow Villa.
Sixty Summers is about three old friends on a journey through Europe retracing the steps of their bygone backpacking years. Can you tell us a bit more about the story?
When Fran, Maggie and Rose met in their youth they had dreams and ambitions. Forty years later, Fran works in a second-hand bookshop. Her lover, one of a long line of disappointing men, is drifting away and she dreads being alone. Maggie has married into a volatile family, her beautiful, indulged, twin daughters are causing havoc, and her elderly mother-in-law has moved in. Rose has been an off-sider for her hopelessly vague but academically brilliant husband but time is now running out to fulfil her own ambitions. The three friends set off to retrace the steps of their 1978 backpacking trip through Europe, a journey that will test their friendship, challenge their beliefs and redefine their lives.
What inspired the idea behind the story?
Turning sixty is a milestone for many women and often a time when some tough decisions need to be made. I wanted to explore the relationships of three friends who are each dissatisfied with their lives and take them on a journey of discovery to find out what they truly want for themselves. The premise of them retracing their earlier trip held endless potential for exploring their relationships in the past and present.
Sixty Summers explores themes of friendship, self-growth, memory, and the passing of time. Why did you choose to explore these themes? What did you want readers to learn, or take away from them?
One of the most valuable assets a woman can have is enduring friendships. Those friends who remember our young selves and have been there through marriages, children and divorces; friends who are honest but kind. I hope readers will recognise some of the elements of their own friendships, both frustrating and hilarious. I hope you will cheer these characters along as they set off on this quest that only starts to come right when everything goes wrong.
You spent much of your early twenties travelling. Did you inject any of your own personal experiences or stories into the book?
I had the experience of backpacking through Europe in 1978 and, last year, I retraced part of that trip so that I could write credibly about both periods. While the characters are 100% fiction, some of the incidents that befall them are inspired by my experiences and those shared with me by friends.
What was your favourite book of 2018, and what book are you most looking forward to reading in 2019?
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and Less by Andrew Sean Greer were highlights, both had engaging characters and laugh out loud moments. I’m now looking forward to Ann Patchett’s new book The Dutch House.