“I promise you one thing, young lady. Building a fence is not going to keep the world out and won’t keep your children in. Life’s not that simple.”
I have a thing for fences, ever since a History professor of mine during my undergraduate degree set an essay question about the Arab-Israeli Conflict using Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, which ends so poignantly: “Good fences make good neighbours.” I’ve wondered often about this notion and the concept of personal space and delineation, how fencing something out can sometimes equate to simultaneously fencing yourself in, protection and preservation meets isolation. So it was that this book appealed to me immediately.
Meredith Jaffe has done a marvellous thing in this story. She’s brought two such incredibly diverse characters together in direct opposition to tell her story over the construction of a fence. This book magnificently describes Australian suburban life, epitomised by Gwen Hill who has lived on Green Valley Avenue since it was first constructed. Her house and garden epitomise everything she loves about the street and the neighbourhood. Here she has grown her family, built friendships, nurtured herself and her husband. And into this warm space comes Francesca Desmarchelliers, Frankie, who is everything that Gwen isn’t. She is city chic and concrete to Gwen’s lush gardens, she is unruly and modern to Gwen’s conservatism and she is desperately trying to save her marriage and her family
What evolves is a wonderful insight into the challenges that neighbours sometimes face, into how we engage each other as people and into the empathy that is required to move successfully through this world.