Thisbe Chisholm wants to be a writer. It’s 2007, a time of digital revolution and skyrocketing property prices, but she’s an old-fashioned girl. She doesn’t even own a mobile phone. She has no stars-in-her-eyes desire for fame, to see her name on the cover of a book, either. She longs only to tell of the stories written on her heart.
While her best friends, Penny and Jane, and her darling boyfriend, John, seem set for stellar careers in their chosen fields, Thisbe works nights as a hostess at a glitzy harbourside Sydney club – a job she despises but it’s paid the rent for the last three years since university graduation.
Just as she completes her novel, though, she is brutally killed at the end of John’s street. Who murdered Thisbe? What will become of her novel?
From the gritty glamour of Bondi Beach to the cold streets of London, here is a tale of tragedy and literary betrayal, of a publishing industry grappling with change and a great love drowning in guilt-wracked grief. Haunting, whimsical and sharply observed, Her Last Words lays bare the truth that, while some crimes might go unpunished among the privileged, words themselves have a way of enduring – and exacting a justice all their own.
There is something very personal about Her Last Words. It feels as though the author has lived it and suffered it in some shape or form. Penny Katchinski, for instance is a Catholic Jew (as am I), and I don’t believe it’s incidental. I can’t imagine your hero would have that background unless you had a reason. I may be wrong of course, but it resonated with me in such a personal way.
Penny and Thisbe’s former partner – soap star actor John Jacobson – are inextricably linked, but John is still in love with Thisbe and cannot move on, and by default neither can Penny. They are trapped in a relationship that was never meant to be. Their love is based on a promise to take care of each other and neither can let go. John has spiralled into depression and cannot lift himself out. Something I am lucky enough never to have experienced, I initially missed how personal this part was to the author and will no doubt resonate with many of this beautiful book’s readers.
Over in the Bookish bookshop, Rich O’Driscoll finds a bag which contains a manuscript called Darling Boy together with other personal items, but he has no idea who any of it belongs to. He puts it away and forgets about it for seven years. We know whose bag it is of course, but that’s part of the unfolding story. The first time Rich meets Penny, she is distraught and hysterical but he falls in love with her there and then.
Back in Bondi John has had enough. Miserable and stuck in a rut, his acting career totally down the pan, he wants a way out. Thanks to a series of accidents he meets Dr Viviane Yu but is it all too late? I adore Viviane. She is clever and funny and eccentric but all in a good way.
In addition to our four main protagonists, we have a side plot. Aspiring author Jane Furlow first read Darling Boy when Thisbe was alive. She had an electronic copy. She said it was a ‘bit shit’ but then once Thisbe was out of the way she decided to publish it as her own work under the name of The Wakening Maid. Asking for trouble? Dear God Jane, your attempts at plagiarism are a ‘bit shit’ aren’t they? Did it never occur to you that there might be another copy floating around somewhere.
This book is so beautifully written and poetic and full of emotion, sadness, happiness, laughter and tears. I didn’t want it to end. The characters are wonderful (apart from Jane) though there are times you will want to scream at them and times you will want to lie next to them and offer comfort. They are so real. They have become like old friends and I shall miss them dreadfully.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Kim Kelly is the author of ten novels, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and bestselling The Blue Mile. Her historical fictions are compelling and whimsical, and driven by strong characters of all kinds. With warmth and lyrical charm, she leads her readers into some rocky emotional and political terrain but each of her words shines with hope, wisdom, and occasionally a little magic. Her Last Words is her latest novel.
A widely respected book editor and literary consultant by trade, stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. Love between lovers, friends, strangers; love of country; love of story. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life.
Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.