The Voyagers by Mardi McConnochie

Mardi McConnochie decided to write this book after a conversation with her book club about wishing for a good literary romance. And that’s exactly what she delivers. At its heart, The Voyagers follows the divergent fates of two separated lovers – an American sailor falls for Sydney woman Marina while on shore leave, drawn not only to her physical charms, but to the spell she casts with her music and the allure of her ‘questions and theories and ideas’. He’s also attracted to her vision of him as a sophisticated adventurer, and begins ‘to wish that he could have been the person she wanted him to be’. So, though set in World War II, this is a thoroughly contemporary romance – it’s about a woman loved for her talent and her brains, by a man who wants to improve himself according to her vision.

Marina and sailor Stead spend just three days together, and circumstances (including the outbreak of war) conspire to keep them apart. But when Stead arrives on Marina’s doorstep five years after their first meeting and discovers she’s been missing for much of that time, he resolves to find her – and the action follows the pair’s separate misadventures as they struggle along, longing for one another.

The Voyagers is characterised by elegant prose and lovely word-pictures. For instance, passionate musician Marina reflects, ‘every morning I have to knit myself together at the piano’. Career and creative endeavour constantly jostle for position with love and domesticity in this book, as Marina (and other characters) struggle to reconcile the two spheres. McConnochie subtly explores the way war opened up the world for women, even as it brought tragedy with it. This is intelligent popular fiction, perfect for the thinking woman who wants to put her feet up and be swept away.

Lou Clausen is from Readings Carlton.