Book review: Stella's Sea

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Cover image for the book Stella's Sea

Reviewed by Louisa Wu

Edited by Siobhan Hodge and Danielle McGee

Title: Stella's Sea
Author: Sally-Anne Jones
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: UWA Publishing

A gentle novel about life after loss

After the recent passing of her daughter Miff, all Stella is left with is her friendly dog, Pom, whom she frequently takes for walks near her beachside residence in Cottesloe, and her memories of the past. Stella’s Sea by Sally-Ann Jones is structured in accordance with the four seasons, gradually revealing how Stella takes small steps to come to terms with her loss and regain confidence.

With each passing day, Stella is reminded of what she has left behind and what she has lost. Noticing the closeness between Deirdre, a woman she befriends, and her young son, reminds her of her closeness with Miff when she was an infant. “It wasn’t easy for Stella to sit while the boy nuzzled into Deirdre’s neck, pressing his nose into the soft skin under her jaw. Miff would do that long ago.” These vivid, fleeting moments are captured particularly well by Jones.

Jones reveals Stella’s memories through flashbacks, the majority of which revolve around her childhood in York. A particular highlight of the novel is the way in which Jones subtly reveals the cyclical nature of the past. Stella’s strong bond with her father mirrors her daughter’s close relationship with her grandfather. And the breakdown of Stella’s own marriage is reminiscent of her parents’ tense union.

Parts of Stella’s story are also interspersed with that of the character Ari, a kind, talkative man whom she befriends. Like Stella, Ari is also completely alone, after his marriage ended in divorce. Jones never rushes Stella and Ari’s budding friendship. Instead, she skilfully depicts two kindred spirits growing to trust each other through sharing fragments of their respective pasts.

Ultimately, Stella’s Sea is a beautifully written novel about the way in which loss can gradually be overcome by confronting the past and forming new friendships.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about family and friendship. I would also suggest it to readers seeking stories set in Western Australia. Jones does an excellent job of bringing the coastal suburb of Cottesloe, and the rural town of York, to life.