Cover Image: The Lost Summers of Driftwood

The Lost Summers of Driftwood

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Member Reviews

I found this book a delightful read, the expressions and turn of phrase were captivating. I could not put this book down, finishing it in a night. I recommended this book to my book club and they are all keen to read it too.
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I read this while holidaying in a log cabin in the bush, deep in Western Australia's Southern Forests region. At one point, the characters prepare to defend their homes from approaching bushfire - as I read these chapters, the south coast of NSW (the setting of this book) was engulfed in flames. I have to say, the real-life setting and events made this reading experience all the more enriching. Like reading in surround sound!

The Lost Summers of Driftwood was all I want in a good read. Secrets, lost loves, rekindled passions, and betrayal all brought together to create a truly satisfying read. It's evocative, it's heartfelt, it's tender at times. It's exactly what a good read, for me, is made of.
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(this review is also scheduled to be posted on the Underground Writers website & their Goodreads page)

From the outside, it seems as though Phoebe has it all. A successful job at luxury champagne company Joet et Halo, a relationship heading for marriage, and the perfect urban lifestyle. That is until a vacation that was set to end in an engagement took a sharp turn and left her feeling lost and alone. When an opportunity arises to visit Driftwood, a small community in which her now-deceased sister once resided, Phoebe takes it.

As a child, Phoebe would spend summers at Driftwood with her two sisters, Camilla and Karin. The sisters befriended Tommy and Jez, brothers that resided there full-time. We soon realise that Jez and Phoebe have history together, and her arrival brings forth a flood of nostalgia and unresolved feelings towards Jez.
The main thread of plot that runs through The Lost Summers of Driftwood is the mystery behind Karin’s suicide, the first anniversary of which is approaching. Phoebe doesn’t believe it was a suicide, and that someone within Driftwood may be responsible for her death. While still coming to terms with Karin’s death, she attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the way in which the author not only constructed the setting, but also developed characters that were all complimentary to each other. The group dynamic of the residents in Driftwood was outstanding and believable. The tension between Phoebe and Jez built at a steady pace, and the conflict between them was realistic. The author did a great job making the reader feel as though they were living at Driftwood too. 

I also really enjoyed the way in which the story was wrapped up, as some books in this genre rush to a conclusion and don’t maintain the tension that has been built throughout the story. There was a sense of urgency at the end, that left me feverishly turning the pages in order to know what really happened to Karin and who was responsible. I don’t usually feel caught of guard by plot twists, but this one surprised me!
If you’re a fan of Liane Moriarty, definitely pick this one up. The mystery element combined with the personal issues and character interactions were reminiscent of Moriarty’s writing style. This is the perfect book to curl up with by the pool, or at the beach under the refuge of an umbrella.
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I absolutely loved The Lost Summers Of Driftwood. 
Phoebe returns to her childhood holiday home on the river to grieve the death of her sister and the breakup of her relationship.
This is a beautiful book about memories, friendship, first love and family. I felt so close to all the characters and their emotions which is always what I want in a book and it had such a great sense of time and place, that I could feel myself part of the story.
Five stars from me and such an eye catching cover too. Just wish I could have devoured this book in a sitting or two instead of life getting in the way.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy to read.
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The Lost Summers of Driftwood is a beautifully written well delivered story. My first read by this author but the first of many, I hope. I recommend you add this book to your read list.
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Brief synopsis from the book cover:

Phoebe’s life has fallen apart and there’s only one place left to go. Alone and adrift after a failed marriage proposal, she flees Sydney to her family’s abandoned holiday cottage.

On the slow-moving river Phoebe is confronted with the legacy of her older sister’s suicide, a year before. Why did Karin leave a note written in flowers and walk into the water?

Phoebe’s childhood love, Jez, has moved back to the beautiful old house, Driftwood, one jetty down. He’s married now and the home has become a refuge for an unlikely little community.

As the river begins to give up its secrets, Phoebe finds herself caught up in old feelings and new mysteries.

My rating:

Plot: 5 out of 5 stars
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars
Character development: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Recommended for readers of:

Women’s fiction
General fiction


This book is beautifully written it captures the spirit of a quintessential Australian small town getaway. The story starts drawing you in from the moment you begin reading. The author’s writing is very evocative. The landscape forms a central part of the special feel that the story has and is almost a character in itself. This is mostly because the scenery depicted in great detail and vividly. Overall this is a rich story full of mystery and suspense with interesting characters that have complex but realistic personalities you can identify with.

Review copy provided by NetGalley at no cost to me
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Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins Australia for a kindle version of this book to review. 

Phoebe is feeling completely adrift after a broken  'almost' engagement and the suicide of her beloved older sister a year earlier, so she escapes to her family's old holiday house on the river in a seaside town in Australia.

There she discovers her childhood friend (and first love) Jez is living at his old family home Driftwood with his wife and a couple of boarders. Jez's brother Tommy also stays at Driftwood each weekend with his wife and son and Phoebe finds a comforting sense of community in her new surroundings until a few secrets emerge that will shatter her newly found peace.

The sense of place the author creates in this book is amazing. The Australian landscape is captured so beautifully it's like a character in it's own right. The prose is captivating and rich and really immerses you in the story, the landscape and the characters.

The characters were believable and I actually felt like they were people that I had known from my own childhood. I also love that the landscape was so identifiable to me and reminded me of my childhood beach house and the hot days of summer, being in the water and adventures with friends (or in my case, with my sister and cousins) and the carefree holiday feeling that I remember so well. As will no doubt many other Aussies!

I really loved this book and how it took me back to places in my childhood and I will be going out in two weeks to purchase a paperback version of this! I will be definitely looking out for future books from this author.
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Wow , what an absolute fantastic first novel . Storyline , character development and prose all fantastic . I will be recommending this book to everyone and following this author in the future . Massive thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins Australia for the ARC in exchange for an honest reviews !
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I’m always a total sucker for an atmospheric setting, which initially attracted me to THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD. If the title and the book cover alone evoke a dreamy, melancholy feel, then you will be pleased to hear that the author’s words build on this theme with her beautiful story of family secrets, grief, reinventing yourself and ultimately healing and hope. It brings to life an Australia many of you may remember from your own childhood – holidays in a little cabin by the water, barbeques on hot summer nights, smoky skies with the threat of bushfires in the distance, birdsong, the hum of flies against the window pane. Vanessa McCausland has such a beautiful way with words that the setting sprang to life in front of my eyes, almost a character in itself. Add Phoebe, a young woman whose whole world has come crashing down after the apparent suicide of her older sister almost a year ago, followed by a recent relationship breakdown. Having hit rock-bottom, she flees back to the place where happy memories live – the family’s holiday cottage on the bank of a tranquil river, the very same place where her sister walked into the water to die.

Since the story relies on secrets kept and changing dynamics between characters, I will try to give as little away as possible here. It is safe to say though that Phoebe really touched my heart, and I felt a kinship with her that comes from having lived through loss and grief and the journey back to healing. I particularly appreciated that the author was not afraid to touch on some dark topics and explore her characters’ deepest secrets instead of going down the “happily ever after” route that would have robbed the book of the deep impact it left on me long after reading it. As Phoebe seeks solace in a place that has happy memories for her, she must also confront some truths about herself, her family and her past that are painful. After a journey through every possible emotion, its lingering message was that of love, and hope, and personal growth that left a warm glow in my heart (and I am not the warm and fuzzy reader type, so this takes some doing!). 

All in all, THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD is a beautiful, evocative and quintessentially Australian story that touches on topics of childhood, family, grief, first love and a sense of connection to places from our past. It touched my heart in all the right places and brought out a lot of emotions from my own life. McCausland has a beautiful way with words that brings to life the magical landscape of a small coastal Australian town as well as a rich cast of characters that became as real to me as people I had known all my life. A perfect summer read that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned.
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