BabyMac Book Club: Good wood {The discussion}


You guys! I did it! I finished a book. Sure I left it to the very last minute and literally finished it 10 minutes ago, but I finished a book. A Christmas miracle! What I have to note though is that I am really badly addicted to my phone. The amount of times I stopped reading, to check it, what for? Was really eye opening. I kept using it as a little reward for reading a section. It has to stop! Ok, time to move onto the book, and the discussion of it.

Obviously if you haven’t read this book, and intend on doing so, stop reading now. Spoiler alert! I will be discussing plot, characters and obviously who dunnit.



In the small town of Goodwood, our narrator, 17 year old Jean tells us about the live and times of few months in 1992 in this town where nothing usually happens, when something really happened. Two somethings in fact. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town vanishes overnight and a week later Bart McDonald sets off fishing and never comes home. As speculation over the disappearances grows, so does the stories of each member of the town and the secrets they have. It’s a mystery, a coming of age tale, an exploration of Australian culture and study of time and place capturing 1992 with nostalgia and at times humour.


There are SO many characters in this novel. Too many? Perhaps. But I must say that I struggled to keep up with them all. The main characters Jean and her Mum, Nan and Pop are all lovely people who you can’t help but be drawn to. Mack, the police officer running the investigations is also great with the many, many others that flow from that made me wonder if they were all necessary? There’s the younger people in the town: kids from School, boyfriends and the new kid in town Evie that show perfectly the boredom that comes with living in the small town. You get a pretty good idea about Rosie White, who disappeared and the tough life she was living. Some of the younger characters, especially the boys, all seem fairly awful and shallow, perhaps they were?

For me it seemed that there were too many of the older people in the town mentioned and explored, but for no real purpose. I swear since having Maggie that my brain capacity has decreased by a LOT so it could just be me but I struggled with the sheer amount of characters, their back stories, and why they were explored in such detail, for no real reason.

I loved Jean and her family. I was indifferent about Evie and the lesbian storyline. I kept seeing Mack as the police officer in Stranger Things and I was a little saddened by all the men (and young men) in the town.

What did you think of the characters and their relationships with each other?
Who did you relate to most of all?
Who would you like to have seen developed further?
Anyone you else think there were too many or was that just me?


I loved Jean as the narrator of the novel. Getting her perspective on things, gave it an innocence like the town had a guess before the disappearances. At times I got a little frustrated at the almost comical way that people or scenes were described. Perhaps because I live in a small town myself, I felt like it was creating these over the top characters and descriptions: the CWA business, the mentioning of Reschs Dinner Ale etc –  it was like taking the piss out of Australian culture. I don’t know, it just kind of bugged me at the start, but definitely got better as the story went on. I felt like the plot got too caught up in characters that went no where so there were chapters that went around and around without actually getting anywhere. Do you know what I mean?

I loved the sense of time and place though. I could see the town, I imagined it to be like Bulahdelah on the mid north coast of NSW. I felt the seasons, the weather, the exact moment in time of the place. It was nostalgic and I think my favourite part of the novel.

As for the mystery did you find the resolution of them a little disappointing? Just a heart attack and car accident? And all those people who never said anything? Really?

What did you think of the chapter styles and flow of the story?
Did you think there was a good mixture of humour with serious stuff?


There were some central themes in the book that stood out for me.

  • Sleepy town and what goes on behind closed doors: I loved that while we got a real sense of place (you started to know your own way around the town and helped by the map) you still never really knew anything at all. And isn’t that the truth for any of us? We never really know what’s going. Are the good people good? Or are they bad? It added to the mystery of the plot I thought. One thing I know about living in a small town just how true this is!
  • Males young and old: did anyone else find all the males in this story a little depressing? They drank too much. They didn’t have much respect for women. They were violent. I don’t know, they just kind of depressed me. That said, Mack and Bart were good men, there were good men, they just were the stoic Australian men of a time gone by perhaps?
  • Australian culture: drinking & domestic violence were explored a lot through the novel and I think while it was a little sad, it was a pretty good reflection of our culture. Especially in a small town where nothing much happens.
  • Relationships: I loved the layers it explored about people and their relationships with each other. The younger characters with their parents, the middle aged characters with their own children and parents and older people in the town and the older people, their history and legacies and stories that lived on in the community.
  • Time: I loved the slice of time that the novel created. 1992 was there in all its glory and it made me nostalgic for a time before the internet and smart phones. Where scrap books and mix tapes were a thing. The inclusion of the Backpack murders and Belangalo Forest also added to the mystery .

What did you think were important themes in the book?
Any that you thought were particularly insightful/interesting?

So there’s my two cents worth. Apart from being bogged down in too many characters  found the book an enjoyable mystery. I love reading Australian novels and especially anything set in a small town. This book perfectly encapsulates time and place and people. It’s about communities and the importance of them in small towns. About how grief can take over a place when something bad happens. About coming of age, being 17 and desperately wanting to find out more about the world we live in, whether that’s in small town or anywhere really. The mystery was a slow burn, but kept me reading and wondering. Perhaps a little anti climatic, but then really, weren’t all things in Goodwood?

But I’d love to hear what YOU think! Did you enjoy the book? The characters? Themes? Narrative style? Plot?

I’m going to do a Facebook LIVE video tonight on my Facebook page (28th November) at 8.30pm AEST (all things going to plan with 3 kids on my own) so come and join in and ask any questions or have a discussion there with me.


  1. Phillipa Palmer says

    I read the book and couldn’t wait to finish it!! Didn’t like it at all, which is sad, I am a big reader but this did nothing for me. I enjoyed meeting Holly and hear her speak but the book did nothing for me.

  2. When you mentioned the book over the weekend I realised it was a book I won a few weeks ago & hadn’t got around to reading yet. I started it Sunday morning & finished it off this morning. As someone with an appalling short term memory I agree there could have been less characters, I found myself sometimes struggling to remember how people fitted in. I also loved Jean & her family & was sad how all the men in the town apart from a couple were pretty dodgy. For me the lesbian storyline neither added to or detracted from the story, it was just there. I sometimes felt the story went around & around without really getting any further. I was a bit disappointed at the ending, it was a bit of an anticlimax although I must say that it was a surprise, I had been expecting a different ending. It gives a good overview of what seems to be a stereotypical small country town, having never lived in one I’m not sure how accurate it is. I found it to be a good, easy read that kept my interest, I enjoyed it.

  3. Modern Major says

    Yeah – I’m with you on a lot of that. I enjoyed the nostalgia, I found it wasn’t too corny, but fresher than what I’d perhaps expected.

    The number of characters etc I found charming IF there were to be a series on the town of Goodwood. I’d read more about these people. But I think perhaps just that bit too much was covered about each of them to warrant a second book.

    Fave character was Mack. Hands down. Definitely seemed to be the most fleshed out.

    My biggest criticism (though this is too strong a word), would be the age of the narrator. I think the humour and innocence was great, but perhaps she could’ve been 15, and just starting to explore her sexuality. The whole Evie thing felt gratuitous. Jean is someone who could be grown. And I’m not buying her name. Too old.

    I DID love reading this book. It felt fresh, and I loved the very subtle humour. I would def read more Holly Throsby books (disclosure – used to work for the publishers and still adore these people!)

    Reminded me very much of The Dressmaker (only watched film though).

    Looking forward to experiencing life in Burrawang and comparing to Goodwood! I’ll have my eye on you all ; )


  4. It took me several attempts to ‘get into’ the book – kept forgetting who the random characters were and wondered if they were going to become part of the story – several didn’t! LOVED Nan and Pop! Enjoyed the flashback to the 90’s – mix tapes, casseroles, videos, Lindy Chamberlain reference. Also the expressions ‘iffy jams’, ‘bit tipsy’ and ‘dumb as a box of hair’. Not fussed about the lesbian storyline – didn’t really think it fitted? Felt like a small Country Town.
    3 out of 5 from me.

  5. this has nothing to do with this post hun!
    but I love that colour in your hair and your new haircut/do!
    love m:)X

  6. Beth so sorry to have missed out on the live event, had a real life book club to go to #nerdgirlproblems Anyway I agree with all the sentiments. Felt some of the characters were marvellous others were pastiches
    Could have been improved with a contrasting narrator – maybe her friend? Look forward to joining in next time. Can recommend The Girls by Emma Cline.

  7. I loved it. I didn’t mind the multitude of characters once I made peace knowing I could not hold them all too tightly in my mind as I read. I think Holly Throsby is a beautiful and nuanced writer- she has a way of conjuring things that are inherently Australian which I love. It meandered here and there in a way that reminded me a bit of Tim Winton (genius). Sometimes books are just gentle and I like that.

  8. Hi Beth, I thought all this was happening this week! So am a bit behind!
    I struggled with the characters names and the town names, they felt too American.Where in Australia are Goodwood or Clarke? Especially Clarke! Carmel Carmichael? Who is she??
    I would be distractedly reading thinking where is this set? And then the word kangaroo would appear. I found myself more interested in the second part of the book and have been wondering what happened after all that? But not in an obsessive I wish there was more kind of way. More of is that it?
    I think you really need to live in rural multiple generation farmer’s society to understand the male characters.Sadly they were mostly dark, sprinkled with good when in reality it is probably more good guys than less.
    Would love to find something really captivating read for the summer?! Suggestions?

  9. I love reading and normally finish a book in 2 days. After 80 pages I gave the book up when I noticed I was reading whole pages and not taking anything in. A very very boring read.

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