All About Ella is a wise and warm-hearted story about aging, family, and community for readers of Tricia Stringer and Liz Byrski.
At 70 years old, and recently widowed, Ella is about to find out that blood is not always thicker than water. Her world is upended, leaving her at odds with her three adult children, whose attention is fixed more firmly on her money than her ongoing welfare. After an argument with her son Anthony, she flees his Adelaide home for Cutlers Bay, a seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula. There she befriends Angie, a 40-year-old drifter, and becomes an irritant to local cop Zach. He’s keen to shift Ella off his turf, because Anthony phones daily, demanding his mother be sent home. And besides, Zach just doesn’t trust Angie.
Ella warms to Cutlers Bay, and it warms to her. In a defiant act of self-determination, she buys an entirely unsuitable house on the outskirts of town, and Angie agrees to help make it habitable. Zach is drawn to the house on the clifftop and finds himself revising his earlier opinions of Ella and Angie.
A keenly observed story about aging and its inherent vulnerability, about community and chosen family, about how family stressors shape us all, about trust and loyalty, and standing up for yourself.
All About Ella is the kind of cosy novel that you’ll want to curl up with over a weekend and devour. Meredith Appleyard has crafted a touching story set in the beautiful surroundings of her home state South Australia. This isn’t an area I’m familiar with, but I’m ready to pack my bags and visit the Yorke Peninsula as soon as lockdown ends! It is beautifully portrayed. It’s the kind of seaside town with quirky cafes, charming locals, and a few nosy neighbours. As Ella discovers, it’s exactly the kind of haven she needs to escape to.
It’s refreshing to read a book in which you genuinely warm to so many of the characters, especially the older characters. Ella and Angie, both trying to find their respective places amongst their families and communities, really lead the way. Their bond, despite a 30-year age difference, is authentic and touching. While the family drama surrounding Ella’s money and her children’s grievances is important, it doesn’t take over. It is a part of life which I’m sure many readers will relate to. Ella’s relationship with her cheeky yet loving grandson Stefan is another lovely branch of the novel.
All About Ella is a joyous read which will have you cheering on the characters as they find their way. A journey to a stunning part of the country doesn’t hurt either!