Small Joys of Real Life

Allee Richards

Small Joys of Real Life
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Small Joys of Real Life

Allee Richards

The night Eva shared a smile with Pat, something started. Two weeks later, lying together in her bed, Pat said, ‘You can’t live your life saying you’ll get around to doing something you know will make you happy. You just have to do it.’

Eva didn’t know how devastating those words would turn out to be. Pat dies and the aftershock leaves Eva on unsteady ground. She is pregnant. And she has to make a choice.

Suddenly, the world that she at times already questioned, her career, her roommates and friends, and life in the inner-city are all even harder to navigate. Her best friends, Sarah and Annie, are also dealing with the shifts and changes of their late twenties, and each of them will at times let the others down.

Small Joys of Real Life is a poignant and unpredictable novel from an exciting new literary talent about how the life you have can change in an instant. It’s about friendship, desire, loss and growing up to accept that all you can do is be in the moment and look to find the joys in between.


When you read Allee Richards’ first novel, it’s tempting to make comparisons with Margaret Drabble’s groundbreaking The Millstone and Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip. In The Millstone, a brief relationship results in a pregnancy; in Monkey Grip, a circle of friends grapple with relationships and life’s vicissitudes against the backdrop of share houses and music in Melbourne’s inner north.

Eva is an actor, on the cusp of a brilliant career, but she hates acting. She gets roles without really trying, she feels like a fraud. She and her friends are at an age when their lives should be finding some direction, when the parties, the drinking, the drugs and the casual sex should be giving way to some maturity. Her closest friends, Sarah and Annie, are poles apart: Sarah is still pushing her boundaries, trying whatever she can when she can; Annie has just been nominated for a high achiever’s award; and Eva is pregnant. She met Pat at a party at Sarah’s share house. They seemed to click and over a few weeks their relationship quietly deepens but ends suddenly when Pat takes his own life. Only Sarah and Annie really know about Pat, and only they know that Eva is pregnant. How Eva navigates the pregnancy, how she imagines her relationship with Pat, and the importance of her friendship with Sarah and Annie is the substance of this wonderful book.

Eva quietly searches for reasons Pat suicided: she runs the conversations of their brief relationship over and over in her mind, while seeking out Travis, Pat’s best friend, trying to glean something from him without telling him about Pat and the growing baby. One thing that doesn’t change is her resolve to see her pregnancy through despite her uncertainty about her career and on-again, off-again relationship with Fergus. Allee Richards has written short stories and plays and Small Joys of Real Life is her debut novel. I think it is very, very good.

Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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