Book Review: Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods

Love and Other Battles…

About the Book:

Three generations of women. Three heartbreaking choices. One unforgettable story.

1969: Free-spirited hippie Jess James has no intention of falling for a soldier … but perhaps some things are not in our power to stop.

1989: Jess’s daughter, Jamie, dreams of a simple life – marriage, children, stability – then she meets a struggling musician and suddenly the future becomes wilder and complex.

2017: When Jamie’s daughter, CJ, brings home trouble in the form of the coolest boy at school, the worlds of these three women turn upside down … and the past returns to haunt them.

Spanning the trauma of the Vietnam War to the bright lights of Nashville, the epidemic of teenage self-harm to the tragedy of incurable illness, Love and Other Battles is the heart-wrenching story of three generations of Australian women, who learn that true love is not always where you seek it.

My Thoughts:

Tess Woods is an absolute master of human emotion. She convinced me of this with her first novel, confirmed it with her second, but this one, her third, is next level. Love and Other Battles is a novel for our times. It is a deeply affecting novel that explores the many ways in which a family can fracture and then knit itself back together. This is contemporary fiction at its finest and I am so grateful to Tess Woods for her bravery in writing a novel that takes readers right into the crux of current social and medical issues, things that so many of us are dealing with but keep quiet about for fear of judgment and contempt.

‘She still didn’t know how to keep living. How was she going to start again after what happened?’

What I loved most about this novel was the inter-generational aspect of it. We have three women from the same family: Jess, her daughter Jamie, and her grand-daughter CJ. Being within Jamie’s generation, I thought that she might have been the character I would relate to the most, but in fact, I was able to deeply connect to all three characters and what they were faced with. I find myself at this age unable to muster the interest to read YA fiction, despite the fact that these novels tap into relevant issues that as a parent of teens, I want to know about. Likewise, I have struggled recently to connect to stories that are entirely about retirees. I feel too removed from the characters themselves, yet I’m interested in the issues they are dealing with. By crafting her characters from three generations within the one family, Tess Woods was able to give me the perfect read. Teen issues that are relevant to me as a parent of teens; parenting and relationship issues that are relevant to me right now; and aged care issues that will become relevant in the not too distant future as my parents age and my husband and I also age. It’s a rare thing for a novel to encompass so much with such precision. And by effectively having three focal points, my attention was regularly shifted from one to the other, eliminating the risk of me not being able to connect to a character for the duration. Instead, I looked forward to spending time with each of them, equally, their battles becoming very personal to me.

‘She’d learned enough about Parkinson’s disease to know that it wouldn’t kill him. He could keep deteriorating like this for another ten or more years, barely able to move or communicate, but with his organs doing just enough to keep him alive, trapped in the body that had failed him.’

Love and Other Battles is a serious novel. Despite the book description that talks of each character within the context of falling in love, this story is so much more than that. At times, it’s so real it hurts. But far out, it hits its mark square on. What happens to CJ, and consequently her mother and her grandmother, is one of the most common things that teens and their families are dealing with today. There is a lot of shame, judgement, and recrimination involved and it’s so important that we stop this. Novels like Love and Other Battles serve a purpose within society, opening the flood gates of discussion through the safe medium of fiction. We have to start talking about these issues, because more and more people are being affected, daily, and without support, there is little hope at turning things around. I’m not going to tell you specifically here in the review what the issues are, and not because of #nospoilers. I’m not telling you because I want you to read this book. I want everyone to read this book. And then I want you all to start talking about it.

‘But now, standing face to face with him, she didn’t feel any desire to hurt him. She didn’t have the urge to scream at him. When she looked into his eyes, all she felt was nothing.’

It’s not all heavy going and nothing but heartache within this novel. There is hope in the form of new beginnings and there’s delight in discovering the sprinkles of Nashville fan fiction throughout. I am a complete Nashville tragic so I picked them all but if you have no idea what I’m talking about right now, it’s all good, it won’t affect your appreciation for the story! With its multiple timelines and genre breaking elements, Love and Other Battles sits firmly in our literacy fiction category by Australian Women Writers Challenge standards. It’s new terrain for Tess Woods but she’s conquered it like a Jedi master. Hats off to you Tess, your talent and emotional response to your subject matter is unmatched.


Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a copy of Love and Other Battles for review.

About the Author:

Tess Woods lives in Perth, Australia, with one husband, two children, one dog and a cat who rules over them all. Her debut novel, Love at First Flight, received acclaim from readers worldwide and won Book of the Year in the AusRom Today Reader’s Choice Award. Her second novel, Beautiful Messy Love, was a 2017 Better Reading Top 100 pick. When she isn’t working or being a personal assistant to her kids, Tess enjoys reading and grannyish pleasures like knitting, baking, drinking tea and tending to the veggie patch. She’s also moderately obsessed with the TV series Nashville and Buzzfeed quizzes. Tess loves connecting with her readers on Facebook: @Tesswoods.harpercollins and Instagram: @tesswoods_author

Love and Other Battles
Published by HarperCollins (AU)
Released on 17th June 2019

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Love and Other Battles by Tess Woods

    • Ha! And many people won’t… 🙂
      The American TV series Nashville. Tess is a huge fan and she has a couple of minor characters in this novel, within her Nashville setting, who are actually characters in the show, and she also set a scene at the end of the book in a café from the show – fan fiction! I am a fellow Nashville tragic, so I picked these up straight away. One of the secondary characters also has a name that is a flip of a Nashville character, not so obvious, but as I mentioned, Nashville tragic, so I saw that one too!
      All this aside, which really has no impact on the actual story, this is an excellent novel and I think you would appreciate its intent.

      Liked by 1 person

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