22 Jan 2018

Gabriel's Bay by Catherine Robertson

REVIEW BY ALYSON BAKER

Gabriel’s Bay is full of stories, and stories within stories, with everything beautifully woven together.

9780143771456

Gabriel’s Bay is a small New Zealand coastal town with difficult access, economic problems and a small, varied population. As we read, we get to know many of the inhabitants of the town, as well as new-comer Kerry (who has arrived from the UK to take up a job he secured via the Internet), and an overweight dog, King. We are rewarded with a classic romance (featuring Kerry and solo Mum, Sidney); descriptions of many relationships, both marital and familial, some happy, some unhappy, and some disastrous; we enjoy the story of an ageing GP who is facing retirement, but who will be hard to replace, and his staunch receptionist who is on the case; and read a heart-breaking tale of child neglect; and worry about a group of friends who have grown up together, but who are starting to drift apart; and, we recognise small town politics and group dynamics when Kerry gets an idea of how to solve the lack of tourist trade in Gabriel’s Bay. The narrative point of view moves between the characters, and the many voices are nuanced, convincing and often very funny. Poor Bernard’s “to be fair”, “to be fair” - a bookish man who lives inside his head and fails to appreciate the world around him. The voice of little Madison: “… so Madison packed the book in her bag, and headed outside, being sure to close the front door quietly. She walked towards the trees, looking forward to sitting down and reading about a world where everything worked out right.” And the voice of Mac, the doctor’s receptionist who worries about her husband’s health and her own future. And many, many more. The plotting is great, along with the stories there is a mystery unfolding, which is neatly resolved. The only disappointing thing for me was that it finished – I had become so involved with the characters and their concerns that I was sad to leave Gabriel’s Bay. Highly recommended.