Home Truths

Sue Green

Home Truths

by Freya North

HarperCollins, $160

Freya North no longer needs to concoct her reviews. These days, with her novels regularly in the best-seller lists, they're mostly glowing - just like those she cooked up to send to a literary agent with three chapters of her first novel.

You have to admire her bravado. And it worked. That novel, Sally, was the subject of a bidding war. A decade on, her backlist runs to seven titles. Her latest comes off the presses with 'the new best-seller' already emblazoned on the cover. In it, North reunites her readers with the McCabe sisters - Cat, Fen and Pip - each of whom has been the subject of a previous book, but it works well as a stand-alone.

There's much to be picky about in Home Truths. It's full of proofreading errors, to the extent that at one point each line of a conversation is attributed to the same person, so she appears to be talking to herself (she isn't). Doesn't anybody proofread novels any more? There are continuity glitches, too. How can someone abandoned by her mother 33 years ago, when she was six months old, now be 32?

The sex, despite leaving little to the imagination, is dull - proof that, unlike in pornography, explicitness alone just isn't enough. And if it's all just a little too nice, the nasty bits - and there are some - are smoothed at the edges so our tears dry quickly. Well, who wants to be depressed anyway?

But that's all fairly minor compared with the most important thing about North's books: she can really tell a story. Her characters are likeable and credible, there are enough twists to maintain interest and the pages zip by.

In Home Truths the youngest McCabe sister, sports journalist Cat, is back in London with sports doctor husband Ben after four years in Boulder, Colorado, ready to find a new job, set up a home and start a family. Middle sister Fen already has her baby, Cosima, and is lavishing her with love and attention - with not enough of either left for partner Matt.

Pip, the eldest and the looker-afterer of the sisters, is happily ensconced with husband Zac and shared custody of his son, Tom. She has never really thought about having a baby of her own - until now.

The sisters, raised from infancy by their uncle Django, were always rather proud of the glamorous eccentricity of their upbringing. Their mother 'ran off with a cowboy from Denver' and their father died soon after, leaving Django, now 75 but still ponytailed and sporting the multicoloured clothes he favoured in the 1960s, to be mother, father and best friend.

But Django has some aches and pains and when Ben notices how frequently he's in the toilet alarm bells begin to ring.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Penny Ericsson, a lonely recent widow, whiles away her days visiting the local ice-cream parlour where she talks about Bob, the love of her life for whom she left England 33 years earlier.

But when a young friend in the parlour talks of her hatred of her late drunken father, Penny decides she doesn't want to be hated like that by the three girls she abandoned.

She decides to visit, unaware they've never realised that, although two of the sisters look like their father, Cat has Django's eyes. The sisters' comfortable world is about to become a lot less cosy.

'Mothers, daughters, lovers, liars' - the cover line on Home Truths pretty much sums it up. So, on a steamy spring day, grab some chocolate, curl up on the couch and laugh and cry with the McCabe girls. It's not rocket science - but it is fun.