The Albatross

Nina Wan

The Albatross
Pan Macmillan Australia
26 April 2023

The Albatross

Nina Wan

'The albatross is just about the rarest thing in golf - two shots on a par 5. A hole-in-one, anywhere on the course, is just a random event, a fluke. It's not your own doing. But an albatross . . . It's a thing of beauty. One. Two. It must be very deliberate, very thoughtful, one superb shot followed by another. You can say it's got to take a degree of belief. You've got to really want it, and aim for it, and try for it.'

When Primrose makes an unplanned detour into a dilapidated suburban golf course called Whistles, she has no idea that the past will come rushing back at her, bringing every detail of her life into stark focus. At 36, her marriage is teetering from illness and infidelity. A visit from her commanding brother-in-law looms ominously on the horizon. And by a twist of fate, Peter, the boy she loved twenty years ago, is now living across the street. Primrose cannot escape the increasing demands to make a choice, between her first love and her marriage, duty and desire, fear and freedom. Slowly, the grounds of Whistles, and a sport she proves to be terrible at, become her meditation and cure.

From a sparkling new Australian voice, The Albatross is a bighearted, beautifully written and utterly engaging novel about first love, second chances and the most elusive shot in golf.


Whistles, a rather pathetic nine-hole golf course somewhere in suburban Melbourne, is dying. It is about to be swallowed up by a developer and for Primrose Li, her newly discovered escape will soon be gone. Primrose doesn’t remember exactly why she ended up taking up golf, although an astute reader will put the pieces together soon enough. She knows she needed a reason to get out of the house, and her elderly, no-nonsense golf partner Harriet keeps her coming back again and again. At home, Primrose finds comfort in cleaning everything, again and again. Her hands, and her mental health, are falling apart.

With a sick husband, a career that has been taken away from her, and a neighbour who has become both best friend and worst enemy at the same time, Primrose can feel life spiralling away from her. The golf course and a weekend away with the neighbours, one of whom also happens to be an ex-boyfriend from her teenage years, might save her. They may also just make things even more complicated, but perhaps confronting the past and taking back control of her days is exactly what Primrose needs.

Reading Nina Wan’s debut novel was a true privilege. To begin with, it was a funny trip down memory lane, as Primrose and I are around the same age and her high school years roughly coincide with my own. (Anyone else remember the sweet pre-mixed bottled drink Sub Zero from the ’90s? I didn’t either until Primrose reminded me.) The wry humour throughout the book becomes the perfect antidote to the devastating undertone of Primrose’s story, as we find out more about why she is the way she is. And while the ending is somewhat ambiguous, it allows the reader to hope. Primrose is strong, she will survive and while she may never achieve an albatross on the golf course, she may yet manage a birdie.

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