A wonderful, well-written debut, about hope, second chances and the power of female friendship.
Claire is a forty-six-year-old philanthropist with a picture-perfect family. She wants to be of service in the world and somehow give back. She starts a company called Suitability which provides disadvantaged women with clothes that are ‘suitable’ for job interviews and work. But while she is working on a way to support other women, she finds her own world falling apart.
Anna is sixty with her dream job as an executive assistant and the man to match. She’s riding high on love and a coveted award from her employer when in the space of a single morning, her whole life falls apart and she finds herself single and unemployed. She has no family and the nature of her long-term relationship left her quite isolated. Even her closest friend had never met her partner. Anna finds herself alone, at a loss of what to do, and volunteering at Suitability.
Molly was abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandmother. She falls pregnant at 17, marries the father and by her early twenties has four kids. Trapped in a once hopeful marriage by a lack of choices and a cycle of poverty, she has seen more strife than anyone should. She has more love to give than most, but her marriage has a dark side that can only lead to tragedy.
All three women are stronger than they realise. When their lives are turned upside down, these women must discover how to start over amid a world of pain, and find the courage to rebuild their lives – with a few outfit changes along the way.
Author, Christine Sykes has volunteered at the charity Dress for Success, and was inspired by the women she met there to write this novel. While not based on any specific people, the themes of empowering women and female friendship definitely grew from her experiences there.
The Changing Room includes a myriad of important themes for women: aging in a youth obsessed society and how that impacts you personally and professionally, death, love and domestic violence. Sykes covers all these with a deft touch, and the story always remains hopeful and heartfelt. All three main characters are well-developed, with each one on rotation between chapters. However, my favourite character was Anna, and I loved how her story was tied up at the end.
The Changing Room proves that sometimes losing everything leads you towards freedom, and that hope can be found even in the unlikeliest of places. It’s a great novel for book clubs, and for women to discuss together. It’s thought-provoking, ultimately uplifting, and a wonderful reminder of the importance of female friendship. A great debut. I look forward to seeing what Christine Sykes does next.
About the author:
Christine Sykes was a volunteer at Dress for Success Sydney for over four years. She served as a Senior Public Servant for 30 years. Now retired, she enjoys the life’s simple pleasures, and is regularly involved in tap dancing, acting, painting and playing the flute. Christine lives with her partner on the south coast of Sydney.