‘A Hundred Small Lessons’ by Ashley Hay

‘A Hundred Small Lessons’ tells the stories of the inhabitants of a house in Brisbane, both past and present.  The previous owner, Elsie, is an old lady who has a fall and is forced to leave her home of 62 years to a retirement village. The new owners are Lucy and Ben and their one-year-old son, who have moved to Brisbane from Sydney and are navigating the trials of parenthood and settling in a new city.

Nothing dramatic really happens in the story but it’s simply a tale about life.  Growing older, grief, becoming new parents, moving to a new city and the simple moments and little decisions in life.  This is all against the backdrop of one house in the peaceful city of Brisbane.

There’s a sad yet pragmatic tone to this beautifully written novel.  The author, Ashley Hay, weaves together the different time periods well.

Personally, I enjoyed reading about Brisbane which is essentially my second home (it’s where my parents live).  I have been visiting Brisbane for the past ten years, for weekends or sometimes weeks on end.  So I could visualize the places described in the book, as well as the differences between Sydney and Brisbane.  I also liked how the author incorporated both the floods of 1974 and 2011 into the story.

It was also nice to discover that the title comes from the excerpt of a poem by a famous Sri Lankan author who I like – Michael Ondaatje. You can read the whole poem here .  This is the excerpt which is also quoted in the book:

For his first forty days a child

is given dreams of previous lives.

Journeys, winding paths,

a hundred small lessons

and then the past is erased.

I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone who likes to read about the little moments in life.


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