You can marry into them, but can you ever really be one of them? A novel about marriage, love and family.
Things haven’t gone well for Simon Larsen lately. He adores his wife, Tansy, and his children, but since his business failed and he lost the family home, he can’t seem to get off the couch.
His larger-than-life in-laws, the Schnabels – Tansy’s mother, sister and brother – won’t get off his case. To keep everyone happy, Simon needs to do one little job: he has a week to landscape a friend’s backyard for an important Schnabel family event.
But as the week progresses, Simon is derailed by the arrival of an unexpected house guest. Then he discovers Tansy is harbouring a secret. As his world spins out of control, who can Simon really count on when the chips are down?
Life with the Schnabels is messy, chaotic and joyful, and Dinner with the Schnabels is as heartwarming as it is outrageously funny.
Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:
Great read – a darkly funny story about the importance of family, love and the honest and painful parts of being an adult. Will definitely look for more from Toni Jordan. Alanna, QLD, 5 Stars
I loved this book so much! It is the perfect antidote to the heaviness of the world right now. It is funny, clever and took me on a journey I wasn’t quite expecting. This was a great read – and could easily have been read in one sitting if you have the time – but equally could be picked up for a few minutes at a time without losing your place in the book. It was interesting to hear the story told from the point of view of Simon. Simon is married to Tansy and the plot centres around Tansy’s family (her siblings and overbearing mother) in the week leading up to her father’s memorial service. I thought the short time line was smart and worked really well and I think Simon telling the story gave it a more interesting perspective too. It was also told in a way that was very funny. I really appreciate this kind of humour. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read that is deliciously funny whilst at the same time having some depth and an uplifting message. I haven’t read any of Toni Jordan’s books previously but I will definitely be seeking them out now. Kylie, WA, 5 Stars
“Dinner with the Schnabels” is an easy read. It looks at the lives of the Schnabel family mainly through the eyes of son-in-law Simon Larsen and his interactions with his wife, his in-laws, his children, and the best friend of his wife. There is also the added complication of a previously unknown sibling for the Schnabels, from their father’s second marriage. Over a week we get to know the family. From Simon’s business failure and move to a smaller residence, to misunderstandings due to lack of communication we see the family improve their communication skills and discover the true meaning of their relationships. An easy, enjoyable read. Anne, NSW, 5 Stars
What the world needs right now is a funny and uplifting novel and thanks to Toni Jordan, ask and you shall receive. Dinner with the Schnabels is an absolute delight; it’s warm and witty with many laugh out loud and relatable moments. The characters in the novel, both young and old, have been created in a way that they reflect back to us how we may have been feeling over the last couple of years and the emotional and financial toll it may have taken. It poignantly conveys the steps we needed to take to support each other and the unconditional love we needed to provide, even when things got pretty tough. Optimism and inner-strength are traits that many of the characters rely on, but for some they need the additional wisdom and surprising intervention from others to turn things around. This aspect of the novel will have you laughing and then welling up with tears. A wonderfully heartfelt, compelling novel from Toni Jordan, an absolute pleasure to read and certainly hard to put down. Jenny, VIC, 5 Stars
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book…it is a funny, laugh out loud, look at a family post Covid. The main character Simon reflects how a lot of us have felt during this crazy time, lost, lazy, dishevelled. He was once a successful business man who now lays on the couch wondering what has become of his life, while he watches it slowly slip away. Jolted into action by his father-in-laws’ impending memorial Simon realises all is not lost. I would highly recommend this novel for anyone needing a laugh and boost in confidence. Karen, NSW, 5 Stars
I loved this book. Heartwarming and hilarious Simon is a loving Husband and Father, but he thinks he’s let down his family. He thinks that his In-laws feel that he’s below their level in society. He gets dragged out of his depression, when he agrees to transform a backyard into a memorial for his late Father-in-law (no pressure). His Mother-in-law is very sceptical of his abilities. Her opinion soon changes. Bridget, VIC, 5 Stars
Dinner With The Schnabels is the hilarious and heartwarming story of a man struggling with depression and anxiety after losing his business and home during lockdown. Before lockdown Simon Larsen seemed to have it all, financial security and a nice house. Now his family live in a two bedroom flat and he can’t seem to get off the couch. When he’s given an opportunity to turn things around by landscaping a friends backyard for his father-in-law’s memorial service he takes it. All Simon wants is to prove to his family that he can make up for what he lost, but Simon may just learn that he gained much more than he lost. Tracey, NSW, 5 Stars
A wonderful contemporary novel with so much life packed into the events of one week. I thoroughly enjoyed Dinner with the Schnabels and would recommend it to any reader. The characters and dialogue felt familiar and entertaining. Toni Jordan manages to easily capture the essence of the musings, drama, madness, fear and love we must all have experienced at some time in our life. Dad Simon’s internal monologue on his life, family and in-laws was wisely and thoughtfully written, revealing much about his character. Matriarch Gloria was a truly formidable, cunning, loveable old dragon. The main characters combine to reveal recognisable, flawed, loyal individuals who make up a wonderfully diverse family and community. Jordan’s easy flowing observational narrative deals with problems such as depression, financial stress, parenting, and divorce with a humorous t warm hearted approach leaving the reader enlightened yet not burdened. A great read. Sandra, NSW, 5 Stars
This was my first book by Toni Jordan, and I am now hooked. Half way through reading I jumped onto the local library site and ordered her others. This was an easy to read book that covered a lot of different emotions and family life issues, and it was unusually written from a male point of view. It was a roller coaster of emotions that I enjoyed from start to finish. Sharon, QLD, 5 Stars
Dinner with the Schnabels was a joy to read. A family dealing with the fallout of the pandemic and bankruptcy and they and extended family dealing with the death of their father. It’s funny, a bit sad and ultimately hopeful. And maybe a lesson or two in learning to cope, knowing when to ask for and accept help and knowing what is important in life. I thoroughly recommend this book. Gloria, SA, 5 Stars
Don’t judge this book by the prologue!! What a wonderfully real and funny take on family life and love in all its complex forms. This book started slow for me, but soon turned into a page turner with lots of laugh out loud moments and believable characters. Recommend from me. Cathryn, WA, 4 Stars
“You can marry into them, but can you ever really be one of them? A novel about marriage, love and family.” This gave me major Schitt’s Creek vibes! It’s a heartwarming and hilarious story of Simon, who has lost everything. His business and family home, along with a sense of himself, due to Covid. He is forced to stand back with little self esteem left and watch his beloved wife Tansy pick up the reins as breadwinner. Honestly there’s so much to love about this story. Laugh out loud funny, a few tears and a relatable cast of characters – in particularly, family matriarch Gloria who had me in fits of laughter, I loved her! Ultimately it is novel about family, relationships, parenting, marriage and friendships … and thrown in for good measure, In-laws! Based in Melbourne, (my home town) Toni Jordan portrays through her vivid characters, the everyday life challenges of life of a modern family. I loved the humour and the quirky characters in this novel, and would love to be invited for dinner at the Schnabels! If you love a messy family saga with clever and original prose, then this is for you! Linda, VIC, 4 Stars
An open and honest story of how secrets and lies can both bring a family together and destroy it. Such a unique point of view through the eyes of Simon, when more often than not, these kinds of stories are written with a female protagonist. Highly recommend. Ammie, NSW, 4 Stars
Dinner with the Schnabels is a novel about family and its various and sometimes complicated dynamics. Simon Larsen is trying to get a grip on all these relationships: marriage, parenting, friends and in-laws. Most of all, a scary mother-in-law who always seems to see the worst in him or just has always wanted the best for her daughter. He’s stuck in a rut, unemployed and feeling like a let-down for his children and desperately trying his best to please everyone. He has one week to complete a landscaping project and even though this seems like an exciting and achievable task for Simon, a roller coaster of events takes place. Based in Melbourne, this novel portrays a modern family going through the challenges of everyday life. It’s relatable and the characters are what made the novel a pleasure to read and very intriguing. I loved the quirky characters and the humour dispersed throughout. I would love to be invited to a dinner with the Schnabels! Julie, VIC, 4 Stars
Dinner with the Schnabels is a hilarious family drama centering around a week in the life of Simon. Simon is depressed having lost everything- job, house- during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Simon is tasked with redoing a friend’s backyard in just one week in time for the memorial service for his father-in-law. The book is almost like a stream of consciousness look inside the mind of poor hapless Simon. His character is hilarious in a bumbling, hopeless kind of way, but it is the characters of Gloria, his mother-in-law, and Mia, his daughter that really stood out to me. Gloria is perceived by Simon to be a Cruella de vil type dragon- lady, but really has a heart of gold. Mia is a spunky, intelligent eight year old who doesn’t miss a beat. Dinner with the Schnabels is the perfect snack for those who love to read messy family sagas. Emma, NSW, 4 Stars
Meet the Schnabels… Gloria, the matriarch, Tansy, the eldest married to Simon and proud parents to Mia & Lachie. Kylie, the professional and middle child, and Nick, Gloria’s favourite. When the Schnabels find out their estranged father is dead they also learn of Monica. The daughter he stayed for. Mayhem ensues as Monica arrives just in time for a hastily prepared memorial for David. Can Simon pull up his bootstraps and finish what he started? What does Monica do during the day? A heart-warming story about family, loss, and finding who you are after a tragedy. Told from Simon’s POV about a tight knit family and strongly opinionated women. Grab a cuppa and a sriracha covered mango coconut donut, because this is a dinner you won’t forget. Amanda, VIC, 4 Stars
This novel was a little slow to start but once you got through the introduction of all the characters and their personalities, the novel took off and I found myself unable to put it down. An interesting novel that covers numerous social issues and makes you think about what or how you would behave in that situation. My favourite character was Simon. I really felt for him with his struggles with losing his business and battling mental health. He was frustrating at times and I never thought he would finish the landscaping for the big day. The story also resonated with me as its set in my hometown , Melbourne. I look forward to reading more by Toni Jordan. Thanks to Better Reading for sending me this fantastic novel to review. Jane, VIC, 4 Stars
Before the pandemic Simon was an architect who worked long hours, was frivolous in his spending and enjoyed the finer things in life. Then covid struck and he was forced to let go of his employees, sell his family home and give up his job. His role as the breadwinner in his family changed dramatically with Simon’s wife Tansy becoming the full time working parent and Simon’s left to stay home. Biding his time, Simon takes on a job as a landscape gardener to complete an unfinished job for his wife’s best friend Naveen in preparation for a memorial to be held in honour of Tansy’s absent father who died during the pandemic years ago. The landscaping ends up losing priority in the week leading up to the memorial when family issues arise, including a young half sibling turning up and moving in with Simon’s family of 4 in their little flat. The narration of this story is so clever and original. Laugh out loud comedic brilliance mixed with emotion that makes you tear up. The story evolves beautifully, revealing the strength, unity and importance of family. When one door closes, another may open, you just don’t know who is leading you to it. Priscilla, ACT, 4 Stars
Dinner with the Schnabels is funny, heart warming and relatable. It doesn’t take long to fall in love with each member of the Schnabel family! The reader gets a close look into the struggles of ordinary people as a result of Covid and the challenges of life. Before the virus hit Simon had it all… but did he? This novel takes you on a journey of love, marriage, family and the dysfunctional relationship with your In-Laws. Mother In-Law Gloria is an absolute hoot! I loved the style of writing and the way the book is written in a space of Monday-Friday. Very easy to read! Could not put this one down. Kellie, NSW, 4 Stars
This book was a delight to read. As an avid reader, Toni Jordan is new author to me but I am so glad I picked up the book. The characters, although some not depicted as the easiest people to like, had a warmth and depth to them and you could identify with the struggles of Simon and Tansy. I laughed out loud a number of times and thoroughly enjoyed the storyline. I would recommend this book to anyone after an easy but relatable read. Phillipa, TAS, 4 Stars
Toni Jordan has once again demonstrated her ability to deliver a fantastic read! With a few surprises in the plot to keep the reader in limbo, this book is sure to please. I recommend this book about ‘family’ as it doesn’t disappoint! Amanda, TAS, 4 Stars
An easy, enjoyable read. This book has lots of fun – Tansy and her husband’s covert shadowing operation at a train station, the inventive solution to an unfortunate golfing disclosure, the mystery of a solitary red sock with little hamburgers on it, and the entertaining memorial speech for a “rat bastard” ex-husband. The lives of the Schnabels in this offbeat take on the events that fill their days (often seen from inside the head of Tansy’s hopeless, hapless husband) – the unexpected couch surfing guest, the cheating and snooping, and the fluffy purple slippers – had me chuckling. Dinner with the Schnabels is a worthy addition to any desert island reading selection. Toni Jordan’s keen, and ultimately compassionate, eye for her character’s relatable foibles, reminds us that things are not always what they seem and the way we respond to those around us can fill our lives with colour. I’m so happy to receive a complimentary book in return for an independent review. A keeper for the bookshelf. I may have found a new author to join my favourites list. I’m off to track down Toni Jordan’s debut novel, I always like to check out how a good author began. Corinne, VIC, 4 Stars
Toni Jordan has written an engaging domestic dramedy that centres on Monday to Saturday through the eyes of Simon Larsen, who, over the past two years has lost his business, his family home and any semblance of motivation. He adores his wife Tansy, and their children, and the novel is choc-full of his reflections and introspections of their lives together. Reading the observations about day-to-day life, social expectations, parenting, education, work and so on, from this male character’s perspective provides some interesting insights, though his ‘expertise’ in some areas was quirkily questionable – which made me smirk and giggle. The titular Schnabels, are his in-laws, and are ever-present in their world. Gloria, his mother-in-law, is a stand-out … and I often found myself laughing out loud at some of her social commentary. The week throws up unexpected events in Simon’s life and through the descriptive and conversational language used, we watch him (and cheer him on) trying to navigate through and juggle it all. The well-crafted dialogue provides valuable information about the characters’ personalities; and it was emotionally intense, especially as the week was ending. I was compelled to keep turning the pages to find out how things would play out. Alida, VIC, 4 Stars
The book started with an initial consult with a lawyer which was intriguing. I wanted to know more but the book was a slow burn. There was so highs and lows but I found everything came together in the last 1/4 of the book. I loved the sock twist, I was not expecting it! The book had a good message to it; money doesn’t buy happiness. The perfect big house and a high paying job doesn’t guarantee happiness. It may reflect on my own life and not taking things for granted. Tara, WA, 3 Stars
An enjoyable read, light to read, funny in parts but spoilt by a few depressive things like mentioning lockdowns in Melbourne which I thought personally spoiled the book in parts and was not needed. It all comes together in the end and the connections between the characters become more obvious as time goes on and their personalities shine more. The cover of the book says “heart warming and hilarious” but I did not find it either and never laughed out loud once. Overall though I think it is well written and a great read if you are looking for something that does not move you too much, relaxing read rather than keeping you in suspense type novel. Linda, VIC, 3 Stars
Dinner with the Schnabels filled with a family of flawed but lovable Characters. Simon Larsen a man still very much in love with His wife Tansy will do whatever it takes to hold onto his Family when it looks like he has everything to lose. A week from hell may just give Simon the push he needs to prove to the entire Schnabel Family that he is good enough to be a Schnabel. Deanne, VIC, 3 Stars
Entertaining, lightweight read. Interesting to see the aftermath of COVID on mental health and families coming through in a novel, however I felt light tone oversimplified these issues. With so many storylines happening, none were explored to a satisfying depth and meant I couldn’t connect with the characters as much as I would have liked to. The sort of book to read when you’re looking for time out rather than make you think or question anything. Good holiday reading material! Jane, VIC, 2 Stars