Cherry Beach is a friendship, a romance, a coming together and a drifting apart.
It’s a novel with a narrative scaffolded by the relationship of life-long best friends. Opposites in nature and appearance, they are nonetheless drawn to one another despite, rather than because of, their differences.
Hetty is extroverted and popular, and Ness is mousy and quiet, with hair ‘‘like a black scribble’’. She’s smaller than her flighty friend, whose beauty and gangliness creates attention, wanted or otherwise. Ness is also hopelessly in love with Hetty, but the sentiment remains forever hidden, unable is she to express her ardour, fearing a lack of reciprocal care as well as the disruption of their mutual co-dependency. Each wears a piece of a broken heart charm that matches up. ‘‘Hetty’s half said Best and mine said Friend. It had always seemed appropriate.’’
The debut of Melbourne-based Laura McPhee-Browne is a poetic, languid, melancholic and sensitive meditation on trying to carve your own path in that liminal period between the freedom of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood.
Not only are the 20-something women exploring their own identities and sexualities but they’re also concurrently exploring a new country, with the author moving them from their respective homes in Australia to a crowded share house in Canada. Set in contemporary times, it’s narrated from the point of view of Ness as she looks back some three years later after events unfolded that claimed the volatile Hetty.