Comedy and motherhood with Jessica Dettmann
I inhaled Jessica’s hilarious debut ‘How To Be Second Best’ and dived into her 2021 release ‘This Has Been Absolutely Lovely’ expecting a similar reflection on parenting, the mental load of mothers and tongue-in-cheek exploration of our culture, all harking back to the notion that you have to laugh or you’ll cry. I was delighted to find all these things, plus a sensitive and highly moving subplot on an issue very dear to my heart.
In the novel we meet fatigued carer, mother and grandmother, Annie, who dreams of snatching back her life from the demands and expectations of her family. But when her adult children, grandchildren, ex-husband and his gay partner converge for Christmas, she realises her plans are as unlikely as an argument-free festive season. Dettmann deftly depicts the intense pressure on mothers and grandmothers in all stages of adulthood, plus the intricacies of family dynamics, sibling relationships and mental health.
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely is a great summer read with plenty of laughs, charming characters and cringe-worthy situations that’ll have you nodding, wincing and laughing all at once.
Thanks to Harper Collins for the review and giveaway copy.
Five fast minutes with Jessica...
Do you have a good luck charm or a special token that sits on your desk/in your office?
I have little lighthouse figurine, because I have a bit of a thing for lighthouses, and a small piece of citrine, an orange-coloured crystal. Apparently it promotes motivation, activates creativity, encourages self-expression, enhances concentration and revitalises the mind. It releases negative traits, depression, fears and phobias. I have no evidence at all that it works, and I still spend much of my writing day being distracted and non-creative, expressing my depression, fears, phobias and negative traits all over social media, but my little boy believes in it and he puts it out to be recharged whenever the moon is full and I love that.
Favourite exercise to counteract all the hours sitting at the keyboard?
I go for long walks while listening to a podcast. I periodically attempt the Couch to 5k running program and never finish it. I’ve just taken up Pilates. Again.
What’s your go-to weekday dinner dish?
I cook for two adults and two kids, one of whom is vegetarian and one who is underweight and requires fattening up. It has drained me of my former passion for cooking and now we eat a lot of very ordinary Mexican food and too much pasta.
Which career would you choose if money wasn’t a factor and writing wasn’t an option?
I’d run a daytime stand-up comedy club with a bookshop, restaurant and bar attached. I’d do stand-up and everyone would have to laugh because I’d be the owner and the boss. It would close at 6 pm so everyone could get an early night. Maybe there would also be a Mecca pop-up in one corner.
Favourite book from your childhood? One book? From my whole childhood? Why don’t you just ask me for a favourite child?! I was very into the Anne of Green Gables series, and What Katy Did At School. Just all your standard olden days stories about bookish orphans, really.
Worst writing/book related injury?
I’ve given myself chronic neck and back problems from typing while worrying that I can’t write anymore, with my shoulders up around my ears.
Which jelly bean do you eat first, and which do you leave until last?
I eat a black one first and I eat a black one last and all the ones in between are also black because all other jelly beans belong in the bin. (Note from Maya - we are kindred spirits, Jess! Love those black ones!)
Have you done anything special with any of your advances?
No. I boldly announced two years ago that if I sell a book to the US or UK I will wallpaper my study/ walk in wardrobe. The walls so far remain beige.
Spot where you seem to get the best bursts of writing inspiration?
At the kitchen table of my parents holiday house, 36 hours into a 48-hour solo writing retreat.
Which book and ‘essential’ item would you pack if you won a week in the Whitsunday Islands?
Brother of the More Famous Jack, by Barbara Trapido, which I can re-read endlessly, and my pillow because I have become one of those awful people with a bad neck who travels with their own pillow. And talks about their pillow in interviews. Mortifying.
Aussie novel you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
Tori Haschka’s debut novel, Grace Under Pressure. I’m halfway through and it’s terrific.
Best one-line sentence from one of your book reviews?
It’s a tossup between ‘Dettmann’s tone is addictively dry and often laugh-out-loud funny, but the family drama that unfolds is a proper yarn, with lovely dramatic twists and gorgeous revelations and resolutions.’ Tim Minchin. Or this one from a one-star goodreads review: ‘Big fat nope.’ Maybe one day I’ll write a book that gets a ‘Big fat yep’ from that reviewer.
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely
Family is forever, and there's nothing you can do about it. The charming, hilarious and all-too-relatable new novel from the author of How to be Second Best.
Molly's a millennial home organiser about to have her first baby. Obviously her mum, Annie, will help with the childcare. Everyone else's parents are doing it.
But Annie's dreams of music stardom have been on hold for thirty-five years, paused by childbirth then buried under her responsibilities as a mother, wage earner, wife, and only child of ailing parents. Finally, she can taste freedom.
As Molly and her siblings gather in the close quarters of the family home over one fraught summer, shocking revelations come to light. Everyone is forced to confront the question of what it means to be a family.
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely is a story about growing up and giving in, of parents and children, of hope and failure, of bravery and defied expectation, and whether it is ever too late to try again.
This Has Been Absolutely Lovely is out in all good bookshops on January 6
Find Jessica online
Endlessly Instagram storying @jessicadettmannauthor
Facebook occasionally, when I remember there’s more to social media than Instagram:
Twitter very rarely because it terrifies me