Measuring Up Merimbula

The Professor and I spent a lot of time talking about G.J. Stroud’s first novel, Measuring Up, over dinner tonight. There’s nothing nicer than finding a book that reflects not just the physical landscape you find yourself in but ideas about local culture and the nitty gritty business of being alive. Measuring Up is a rites of passage novel set in Merimbula that captures a year in the life of 17-year-old Jonah as he sets about trying to lose his virginity. Despite all the raging hormones and teenage angst, it’s a novel that keeps you turning the pages. Stroud knows how to sling a paragraph together and keep you reading.

After my last post – full of longing to find a book about Australian summers – it was perfect timing to stumble upon Measuring Up. All of a sudden, the local landscapes have connections from Bar Beach where we swam this morning to the rolling surf down on Short Point Beach, just down the road from where we’re camped. Stroud writes surf scenes with a deft touch and an eye for the pure aesthetic of surfing.

On Thursday afternoon, a wind blew up off the sea that sent my outdoor office into chaos. I packed up a basket of files and my laptop and headed into Merimbula to work at the local bookstore/cafe Booktique.

Booktique is one of those independent bookstores that you just fall in love with the minute you walk through the door. Its owners, Michelle and Mark, are real readers and the sort of booksellers that should be cloned. It would be so nice to find a bookshop like Booktique in every country town in Australia.

In another life, Mark was a piano tuner and there are both baby grands and upright pianos converted into bookshelves inside the shop. Better still, the street aspect of the shop is a cafe that serves excellent coffee and it made for a great alternative office on a windy Merimbula afternoon.

When I told Michelle that I was hankering after a juicy Australian summer read – either kids or YA – she pulled Measuring Up off the shelf. I read it the same evening and the Professor picked it up the next day and swallowed it whole.

We’ll be in Merimbula for the rest of the week, even though as I write this, Gloria is being pounded by rain. The Professor has booked a local venue – Twyford Hall – to stage a performance of Punch and Judy next weekend so by the time we leave Merimbula we’ll know it a whole lot better.

If the weather stays like this, I’ll be spending a lot more time hanging out in Booktique. Hopefully, I’ll find a few more local gems while I’m here but Measuring Up was a solid start to our Merimbula season.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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