Book Review: Her Last Words by Kim Kelly

Her Last Words…

About the Book:



Thisbe Chisholm wants to be a writer. It’s 2007, a time of digital revolution and skyrocketing property prices, but she’s an old-fashioned girl. She doesn’t even own a mobile phone. She has no stars-in-her-eyes desire for fame, to see her name on the cover of a book, either. She longs only to tell of the stories written on her heart.

While her best friends, Penny and Jane, and her darling boyfriend, John, seem set for stellar careers in their chosen fields, Thisbe works nights as a hostess at a glitzy harbourside Sydney club – a job she despises but it’s paid the rent for the last three years since university graduation.

Just as she completes her novel, though, she is brutally killed at the end of John’s street.
Who murdered Thisbe? What will become of her novel?

From the gritty glamour of Bondi Beach to the cold streets of London, here is a tale of tragedy and literary betrayal, of a publishing industry grappling with change and a great love drowning in guilt-wracked grief. Haunting, whimsical and sharply observed, Her Last Words lays bare the truth that, while some crimes might go unpunished among the privileged, words them-selves have a way of enduring – and exacting a justice all their own.

My Thoughts:

Her Last Words is Kim Kelly’s very first contemporary tale, a story told with fervour, insight and panache; everything I love about Kim Kelly and then some. Each new novel by Kim Kelly is a highly anticipated event, but when an author that you favour breaks ranks and changes style, in this case, moving from historical fiction to contemporary, the anticipation becomes tinged with just the smallest amount of trepidation. Oh ye of little faith! How I love this woman’s writing. She has all the words and she weaves them together with love and imagination in a way that just makes my soul sing.

‘And at that moment, into her head popped Rich O’Driscoll’s upstairs bookshelves: long, long rows of books, seven shelves high, that swept down the hall, into the lounge room and around two walls there. Books everywhere. All those Irish authors unknown to her. This last was perhaps the sexiest thought she’d ever had: that a man might take her into stories she’d never been inside before.’

Kim Kelly’s love of books and passion for the sharing of stories has never been more evident than in the pages of this novel. To be honest, I just want to be Penny’s best friend and hang out in Rich’s place drinking tea surrounded by all of his books, trading stories and sharing in the magic of creating art. And this is what we need right now, more than ever. Books that make us love literature even more, that extol the virtues of it; that make us crave it and celebrate its very existence. In a time where its worth has been so grossly commercialised, this novel gives us pause to reflect on what we want from our books; on what we value most.

‘They were almost as important as air and water, as far as she was concerned. Spoken, written or performed, stories, she saw, were the glue of our existence, the places of all our togetherness’s as humans. How else did we forge bonds with strangers we could never otherwise meet? How else did we learn, grow, heal?’

Stylistically, this novel is in a class of its own. The chapter headings are stories themselves, a candid tip-off on what is to come in the pages to follow. I had this idea that if you joined up all of the headings, you would end up with this really funky condensed version of the novel. I almost did it too, but then that would have spoiled the surprise of each new heading for you – and it is fun to discover each of them while you are reading. The tone throughout is also very fresh and conversational; observational and witty with just the right amount of snark. There really is a lot to ponder on about the publishing industry within this novel. I found myself smirking with knowing over and over, and sometimes shuddering too.

‘But this industry she had loved so much, now seemed so broken, so corrupted by dollar signs and spreadsheets and ruthless decisions that had nothing to do with art or culture or even good old-fashioned entertainment.’

As satirical as this novel is, it is also a deeply meaningful story about love and morality. There are heavy themes throughout but they are conveyed with an empathic tenderness that exposes the most vulnerable parts of a person without shame or pity. Kim Kelly has always shone her brightest when writing about humanity, and so too it is with this novel. Her heart is on her sleeve for all to bear witness to, a bravery that is quite absent in most literature but deeply craved. Bravo Kim Kelly, you got me again.

‘It would always be this way with them: this love would see them through the rest of their lives, the highs, the lows, the in-betweens. Not lovers, not siblings, and a lot more than friends. They were something else; some other kind of family.’


Thanks is extended to the author for providing me with a review copy of Her Last Words.

About the Author:

Kim Kelly is the author of ten novels, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and perennial bestseller The Blue Mile. With distinctive warmth and lyrical charm, her work explores Australia, its history and people, its quirks and contradictions, from colonial invasion times to the present, and from the red-dirt roads of the outback to its glittering cities. An editor, reviewer and literary consultant by trade, stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life. Originally from Sydney, to-day Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.

Her Last Words
Published by Jazz Monkey Publications
Paperback and e-Book released 7th July 2020
Audiobook released by Bolinda 1st June 2020

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