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Dinner with the Schnabels (Toni Jordan, Hachette)

In this timely new novel, Toni Jordan lends her signature wit to the story of a dysfunctional yet loving family group. Simon Larsen has lost his business and his home in the global pandemic and is now adrift in a tiny unit with his wife Tansy and their two young kids. Over the space of a week things get harder: Tansy’s previously unknown half-sister arrives to stay with them, Simon’s friend Naveen begins to act strangely, Simon’s daughter Mia is in trouble at school and Tansy is hiding a secret. Over the course of the week, self-involved Simon’s cluelessness is played for laughs as we learn more about his family. Watching Simon stumble through his life is like watching cringe comedy, hilarious and uncomfortable, and as Simon’s life falls apart the reader slowly gets more insight into the situation he has created. Jordan carefully reveals just the right amount of information to keep you re-evaluating her characters in a comedy of errors where misunderstandings and miscommunications are rife. Jordan’s latest novel is darker than her early romantic comedies Addition and Fall Girl—it has more in common with books by other Australian authors such as Jock Serong or Matt Nable, but with more humour. Cleverly playing with dramatic irony, an unreliable narrator and the backdrop of Covid-19, Dinner with the Schnabels tells a surprisingly sweet story about the darkness of feeling isolated in society and the joy that can come from community, family and authenticity. Jordan just might be our Australian, pandemic Nick Hornby. 

Fay Helfenbaum is a freelance writer and editor and was a bookseller for five years. 


Category: Reviews Think Australian Top reviews