The Women Who Wouldn’t Leave is an engaging novel by Victoria Scott. The two main characters are Matilda and Connie. Both are poles apart in character and yet similar in many ways. As the story begins, they are aware of each other, being neighbours, but don’t talk to one another.
Matilda is an elderly recluse, a hoarder, and an urban farmer. She prefers the company of the goats, chickens and cats she keeps in the back garden of her council-provided home, to humans. Twenty-something Connie is back at her mum’s recovering from a trauma, and also avoiding others. But when Matilda has a fall and ends up in hospital, Connie becomes the reluctant carer for Matilda’s menagerie.
I loved this book! The characters were complex and unique, but the main two, Constance and Matilda, were particularly so. Both are quite similar in that they’re broken and have retreated from society. But they’re both strong and resilient. They are drawn together at first, unwillingly out of necessity, but they eventually form a strong bond that proves quite cathartic.
I liked the theme of not judging people by their appearance and the strength of community spirit. As the book begins, Constance has met none of her neighbours, but she watches them as they go about their daily lives, so she gives them made up identities such as Colonel and Mrs Mustard, Ms Yoga Mat and Mr Road Fixer. As the story develops she discovers she was way off the mark most times. But these neighbouring strangers become strong allies and good friends.
The book touches on many serious issues, such as the replacement of public housing to cater to wealthy second homeowners in rural areas, abusive relationships, drug/alcohol abuse, but it is overall a heart-warming, uplifting read.
My only (tiny) gripe with this book is the way the author dropped h’s when writing some of the characters’ dialogue, most notably with Jamie. I got they were speaking in a local accent but after a while it became quite jarring.
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