Dione Jones recommends Addressed to Greta by Fiona Sussman - Aotearoa Books, 2020
Fiona Sussman, a former GP, was born in South Africa but now lives in New Zealand. She has won awards for short stories including being shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Writers Prize.
She has written several novels and won the Nagio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel in 2017 with The Last Time we Spoke. Addressed to Greta won the NZ Booklovers Award 2021.
This novel, written with such a skilful touch, is the uplifting story of Greta, a thirty-something woman who finds the ordered existence of her life turned upside down by the bequest of a world trip from a friend, Walter. Having reluctantly resigned from her job of many years, given up her rented house and even found a temporary home for her pet chicken, Greta faces the challenges of the first-time traveller. With the holiday organised by her late friend, she is only informed of one part of the itinerary at a time. Each destination is a surprise to Greta — and the reader — as she is whisked to cities and places she would never have chosen herself. with the help of Walter's friends, each destination cleverly forces her to face a little more of her own demons and controls.
At the beginning of the journey, the reader despairs as she struggles to cope with the luxury travel and first-class service but at the same time it is easy to identify with some of her phobias. Used to her mother's mantra of control, Greta only slowly breaks the shackles but as she does so, she endears herself to the reader.
It is easy to compare this novel to Tina Shaw's Ephemera, another novel deservedly shortlisted for the NZ Booklovers Award 2021. Both have naive women, living limited lives, developing through the challenges of travel. The novel uses a worldwide stage and present-day timing (or rather pre-COVID when travel was 'normal') and the book touches on some interesting themes as Walter's influence inspires Greta to accept the unknown and discover hidden talents. Like Ephemera it is a really enjoyable story.
Addressed to Greta is available from Aotearoa Books and at your local bookstore..