Disenchanted with their lives, three old friends set off on a journey through Europe retracing the steps of a backpacking trip forty years earlier. What could possibly go wrong? Life is too short for compromise…
When Maggie, Fran and Rose met in their youth, they had dreams and ambitions. Forty years later, the three friends are turning sixty, each of them restless and disenchanted with their lives.
Fran works in a second-hand bookshop. Her lover, one of a long line of disappointing men, is drifting away and her future is uncertain.
Maggie married into a volatile family. Her beautiful, indulged twin daughters are causing havoc and her elderly mother-in-law has moved in and is taking charge.
Rose has been an off-sider for her hopelessly vague but academically brilliant husband and their two sons. Time is running out to find and fulfil her own ambitions.
In an attempt to recapture the sense of freedom and purpose they once possessed, they decide to retrace the steps of their 1978 backpacking trip through Europe and set off an odyssey that will test their friendship, challenge their beliefs and redefine the third age of their lives.
Amanda Hampson grew up in rural New Zealand. She spent her early twenties travelling, finally settling in Australia in 1979 where she now lives in Sydney's Northern Beaches. Writing professionally for more than 20 years, she is the author of two non-fiction books, numerous articles and novels The Olive Sisters, Two for the Road, The French Perfumer and The Yellow Villa.
Author: Amanda Hampson
Question: What inspired the story?
Amanda Hampson: Turning sixty is a milestone and, for many women, a time when some tough decisions need to be made about the next decade. I wanted to explore the relationships of three friends who are each dissatisfied with their lives and take them on a journey of discovery to find out what they truly want for themselves. Retracing an earlier trip offered endless potential for exploring their lives, both past and present.
Question: How did your own travel inform the story?
Amanda Hampson: In the past decade, I've travelled extensively on my own and, although that can occasionally be testing, in my experience, it's much easier than travelling with others. Travel has a way of bringing out the worst in people, or at least intensifying character traits. So, having travelled when I was young and then more recently, I was in a perfect position to take my characters on a journey that would test their relationships and change their thinking.
Question: What message to do you hope readers will take from Sixty Summers?
Amanda Hampson: Life is too short for compromise. If you're unhappy in your life, make some changes. It will take courage to move away from what is comfortable and predictable, but it could also be the making of you.
Question: What is your favourite European dish?
Amanda Hampson: So many to choose from! I would say, Italian pesto pasta. There is something about the combination of fresh basil and olive oil, so intense in both flavour and colour. Pesto always tastes better in Italy where they use it very sparingly. I have a vivid memory of lunch at one of the Cinque Terre villages, a restaurant courtyard high above the Mediterranean and bright green pesto pasta on a white plate.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Author: Amanda Hampson