The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett


‘Intoxicating’ Jeff VanderMeer, author of Annihilation

‘Barrett’s brilliant second novel plummets headlong into a darkly funny tale’ Mail on Sunday

Bridget Jones meets Twin Peaks in this black comedy about a woman’s retreat to a remote Australian town and the horrors awaiting her.

It wasn’t just the bad breakup that turned Eleanor Mellett’s life upside down. It was the cancer. And all the demons that came with it.

One day she felt a bit of a bump when she was scratching her armpit at work. The next thing she knew, her breast was being removed by an inappropriately attractive doctor, and she was subsequently inundated with cupcakes, besieged by judgy support groups, and the ungrateful recipient of hand-knitted sweaters from her mum.

Luckily, Eleanor finds that Talbingo, a remote little town, needs a primary-school teacher. Their Miss Barker upped and vanished in the night, despite being the most caring teacher ever, according to everyone. Unfortunately, Talbingo is a bit creepy. It’s not only the communion-wine-swigging priest prone to rants about how cancer is caused by demons. Or the unstable, overly sensitive kids, always going on about Miss Barker and her amazing sticker system. It’s living alone in a remote cabin, with no phone service or wifi, wondering why there are so many locks on the front door, and who is knocking on it late at night.

Riotously funny, deeply unsettling, and surprisingly poignant, Shirley Barrett’s The Bus on Thursday is a wicked, weird, wild ride for fans of Maria Semple, Stephen King and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. And when have those three writers ever appeared in the same sentence?


The Bus on Thursday


This is one screwed up book that refuses to be stored in my mind as it keeps bobbing back into my thoughts and swirling around with the strange characters from the madcap town of Talbingo.

Eleanor Mellett was a big city girl through and through including being part of the rat race that came with it until her mapped out life began to crumble. Elementary school teacher Eleanor and her long-time boyfriend broke up only three months before she discovered a lump under her armpit. What she thought would be a simple removal of the lump turned into a mastectomy.  Eleanor found the perfect solution when she saw an advertisement for a new teacher way out in the middle of nowhere. A small Australian town where everyone knows everyone else. It even comes with a population board which was added to or deducted from depending on births, deaths, leavers, and newcomers.

Eleanor soon discovers that the position of school teacher has come available because the previous teacher vanished one night. Now Eleanor isn’t only filling the ‘perfect’ Miss Barker’s role in school but has also been given the ex-teacher’s home. There is something very amiss with the people in this town.

I love quirky, unpredictable books, with weird and unreadable characters so I found that I was in my element with this book. The town is a cross of Wayward Pines and Twin Peaks but with  Eleanor being totally out of place with the strange hypnotic residents that I felt had been there far longer than their actual years.

From the horrors of how different people react to her after surgery, which is heartbreaking at times, to how she sees the world makes it a read laced with sadness and dry humour.  Eleanor is a very unforgettable character, one who isn’t perfect, makes mistakes and wrong choices.

This is a story that people will interpret differently, see a different ending and what it all means. Just read it with an open mind and let the story and your mind work together. I love that it still pops into my head, makes me smile and makes me try to make sense of some of it still.

I wish to thank Amazon Vine for a copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.


Shirley Barrett

Shirley Barrett is best known for her work as a screenwriter and director. Shirley’s first film, Love Serenade won the Camera D’Or (Best First Feature) at Cannes Film Festival in 1996. The script for her film South Solitary won the Queensland Premier’s Prize (script) 2010, the West Australian Premier’s Literary Prize (script) 2010, and the West Australian Premier’s Prize 2010. Rush Oh! is Shirley’s first novel. She lives in Sydney, Australia.


The Bus on Thursday by [Barrett, Shirley]


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