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We arrived on a Tuesday, I can remember that. I can remember Hetty’s hand in mine as we moved slowly down the steps of the escalator, as if standing completely still would have been harder than moving.
Hetty and Ness, best friends since childhood, have left suburban Melbourne for the first time to live abroad. Hetty is charming and captivating, the life of the party. Ness is a wallflower, hopelessly in love with her. In the student quarter of Toronto, the pair take a room in a share house full of self-assured creatives. Hetty disappears into barkeeping work and a whirlwind nightlife, while Ness drifts aimlessly.
But when Ness finds Faith one day in the art gallery, an intense affair develops. There are new friends, too, and a job: at last her life starts to make some sense. And Hetty’s starts spectacularly to fall apart, in a mess of bad drugs and bad men.
As winter freezes the lakeside city, the dark undercurrents of Hetty’s character—abusive relationships, a dangerous obsession with bodies of water—become ever stronger. Ness may lose the person she loves more than anyone else in the world.
Beautifully written and intimate, Cherry Beach is a revelatory story of friendship and desire.
INTERVIEWS and REVIEWS
2SER: Final Draft
Australian Book Review
First Time podcast
Kill Your Darlings
Readings: Four new novels to satisfy your Sally Rooney craving
Sydney Review of Books
‘Cherry Beach is a tender and bruising coming-of-age novel. McPhee-Browne’s writing is both poetic and economical, finely attuned to the exhilaration and doom of youth, unfamiliar cities and new relationships.’
‘Laura McPhee-Browne’s Cherry Beach is an acute and gripping novel about being made and unmade by first love. In prose reminiscent of Elizabeth Jolley’s, McPhee-Browne portrays the helpless entanglement of two friends in their impossible quest for self-determination. Cherry Beach is a breathtaking debut by a gifted new voice in Australian fiction.’
‘A melancholy exploration of mental health, female friendship and desire, delicately portraying the deep ache of losing the person you’re closest to…A promising debut.‘
‘Like sparkling wine on a sunny afternoon, Cherry Beach goes down easily—and leaves a killer hangover. A vibrant, tender debut from a bright new voice in Australian fiction. I loved every minute of it.’
’This beautiful novel is tender: tender like a loving touch, and tender like a bruise. Cherry Beach will seduce you with its lush and gorgeous detail and its unguarded openness, and then it will rip your heart out. In its rawness and its yearning, Cherry Beach exquisitely captures the intensity of youth, love, desire, and loss.’
‘If you liked Sally Rooney’s Normal People but were left hankering for something local, queer, and (possibly) darker, Cherry Beach may do the trick…A tender, intimate story that will leave its mark.’
‘The debut of Melbourne-based Laura McPhee-Browne is a poetic, languid, melancholic and sensitive meditation on trying to carve your own path in that liminal period between the freedom of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood.’
‘McPhee-Browne’s writing is tender, bruising, sexy and heartbreaking in equal measure…Cherry Beach has the pace of a thriller despite urging the reader to linger over the exquisite details of young desire, capturing the intensity of youth with refined restraint.’
‘Cherry Beach is the kind of story that bruises…A beautiful, heartfelt book.’
‘The book deftly captures the experiences that define youth: love, desire, loss, ambiguity. There is a vulnerability and rawness to McPhee-Browne’s writing that many will compare to Sally Rooney and that is completely warranted. This is a really impressive debut!’
‘Cherry Beach has been called a queer Normal People, but this simplifies its multifaceted and nuanced layering of meaning…Through its exploration of queer actualisation, of the transformative nature of the friendship and love in our lives, of, the inevitably beautiful-scary, Cherry Beach succeeds.’
‘This quiet, precise novel reaches deep into the recesses of female friendship and finds it wanting…Tying everything together is McPhee-Browne’s exacting language, which is clear and clean but also evocatively decadent.’
‘In its piercing exploration of complex relationships and heady post-adolescence, its wry observer-narrator, and immersion in the world of art and books, this gorgeously written novel reminds me of Sally Rooney, with a dash of Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep.’
‘An exciting addition to this generation of writers.’
‘A brilliant piece of writing, mixing the uncomfortable with the excitement of travel and new love and taking those feelings to new heights. Recommended.’
‘A tender, carefully-wrought coming-of-age novel that will leave you aching and bruised…Dark and disturbing, queer and gorgeously written, this book surprised and entranced me. I felt every stir and sting of unrequited love I’ve ever felt, all over again.’
‘For Rooney-lovers who are looking for something tender and heartfelt, Cherry Beach is the book for you.’
‘Cherry Beach is both a coming-of-age story and a tender depiction of what it means to grow apart…Highly engaging as well as skilfully put together…It’s sure to be a favourite among those who enjoy novels centred around complex friendships.’
‘Captures beautifully the emotional state of early adulthood…McPhee-Browne outlines Hetty’s unravelling, and Ness’s response to it, with great delicacy.’
‘Ness’s voice is melancholy and distinct, and her experiences of sexual explorations are delicately and honestly portrayed. McPhee-Browne immerses the reader in the experience of awkward emotional growth with great tenderness and insight. At its core, Cherry Beach is a compelling examination of love and loss in all their guises.’
‘Cherry Beach, an impressive debut from Melbourne author Laura McPhee-Browne, is not afraid to present unadulterated queer womanhood in a manner Australian audiences may not often encounter in their local fiction…Lusciously evocative prose…Another queer woman hero to add to the slim but beloved catalogue scrounged from Australian literature’s meagre offerings.’