Review: The Landing by Susan Johnson


Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: August 26, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760113933
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Booktopia (RRP: $AU 29.99)

In one swift, blindsiding move, Jonathan Lott’s wife leaves him. What he and his daughters find even more confusing is that she has left him for a woman. How is it possible that Jonathan saw no sign of her unhappiness?

Wondering what he will do now, and knowing a life lived alone is not for him, Jonathan retreats to his beach house at The Landing. Is it true that an about-to-be-divorced man in possession of a good fortune is in need of a new wife? Would Penny Collins do, divorced herself, a school teacher and frustrated artist? What about beautiful, wild Anna, blown in from who knows where, trailing broken marriages behind her?

With passion, family splits and secrets, everyone seems to be looking for something. And Jonathan’s about to find out how much love matters.

Susan Johnson’s stunning new novel, written with her trademark wit and insight, brilliantly observes what it is to be human and to love: the betrayals, the long and the short alliances, the disappointments and the joys. The Landing celebrates it all.


35 stars

I received a copy of The Landing from Allen & Unwin. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Landing is a wonderfully written book that explores the different sides of love and humanity, the idea of home and belonging, and appearances vs reality. It is a light and mostly happy novel that delves into some deep and heavy themes.

The book is set in a small coastal town called The Landing, near Brisbane in Australia. Our main character, Jonathan Lott, a 55 year old and almost-divorced construction lawyer, escapes to The Landing for the weekend to get away from his left-over feelings for his estranged wife. But The Landing is anything but relaxing. It’s a place full of gossipers and people who know everything about everybody who reside there. We soon come to realise though, that everybody has something to hide and that we only show a fraction of our true selves to the world.

She knew life was counterfeit and her new self was counterfeit, too. She sometimes felt breathless with an inner recklessness at what she, or anyone, could do. Why, everyone was fake; their public faces put on, every single day.

In this book, we see characters idealise and romanticise love, only to realise that reality is anything but ideal. We see characters dream about greatness and ambition, only to realise that they are no closer to their dreams than they were the day before. We see characters put on masks and acts of confidence in order to hide their own self-doubt. This book explores how each of us are trying to find our own place in the world where we can find a balance between reality and our dreams/appearances, a landing if you will.

There isn’t very much that happens in this novel. It’s an in depth exploration of the character’s lives and the different sides of human nature. There’s not much of a plot, which made me a little bit bored at times. I also had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book. The first 20 or so pages were very slow and I didn’t think I would enjoy the book at all. Thankfully, I really warmed up to the characters and started to enjoy all their stories and disappointments. This book also jumps back and forth in time, as we revisit past events, and I really enjoyed that it was written this way. There were scenes that felt very nostalgic and heartwarming.

The writing in this book was beautiful. Susan Johnson has such a way with words. I ate up every single word. The only problem I had with the writing were the lengthy paragraphs of descriptions of nature and the wind blowing and the flowers blooming and the birds calling. There were so many of these long-winded descriptions in the first 30 pages that I could not engage with the book. As we started to see more of the characters, these descriptions dropped off.

Despite what the blurb of the book may suggest, this is not a book about Jonathan Lott. While he’s one of the key characters in the novel, we see many other characters too. There’s Penny, who was once the most beautiful woman in The Landing, but now a divorced high school art teacher, whose daughter ran away (and then came back) with a man older than her own father. There’s Marie, Penny’s disagreeable mother, who was a refugee from France. There’s little Giselle, who’s neglected by her mother and has to take care of herself. The book is written from the perspectives of all of these characters and more. This was perhaps one of the biggest problems I had with the book. It jumped from one perspective to another too much for my liking. I would have much preferred to read from only two or three perspectives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but there were times when it felt a little bit draggy. I would probably have enjoyed it more if there was a little bit more action. I did love the pace and the tone of the book, and I really appreciated how much The Landing made me introspect and think about where I stand in the world.


7 thoughts on “Review: The Landing by Susan Johnson

  1. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    I’m not good with lengthy descriptions of nature either. I studied a lot of 19th century literature in university, and as much as I loved it, the nature side of things was one I could never engage with. I always find myself speed reading it. I’m like yeah trees, wind, cold – I GET IT. I’m not so great at description in my own writing either. It’s something I’ve been trying to work on in the last year or so.

    This sounds like an interesting book. I am really terrible at reading about characters significantly older than I am. It’s particularly silly seeing as I have no trouble reading about children. I guess in general I just find older characters more difficult to connect with? That’s probably terrible of me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I think you need a really fine balance between too much and too little description. Pretty much anything over 3 sentences I start to skim over. I mean, how much do I really need to know about these plants in your garden?

      I also have the same problem with adult books! Sometimes I feel like the dialogue isn’t very believable or seems too juvenile to be spoken by a middle-aged person. But because I’ve never been that age, I don’t know whether that’s really normal or whether it’s just writing that’s not great. I feel like it’s much easier for me to connect with YA books because I’ve been that age and I can understand their experiences. I don’t know…

      Liked by 1 person

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