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Good Reads Review: The Wakes by Dianne Yarwood

The Wakes book cover

This book was provided courtesy of Hachette Australia, with an accompanying interview with Dianne Yarwood featured on the literary podcast Date With A Debut in April 2023. I have not received any rewards or compensation for this review and therefore all views and opinions are of my own, the reviewer.

Mild spoilers below. 

Four funerals. Two marriages. A once-in-a-lifetime friendship. Lemon tart. And sandwiches. Oh, the sandwiches! 

There’s a reason this became a bestseller. Dianne Yarwood has crafted a cozy, delightful, and appropriately easy read about the most delightful of topics: divorce, funerals and death. 

Following the characters in Clare, Louisa, and Chris (plus an occasional inclusion of Paul and Beth) over several months in Sydney’s northern beaches, Yarwood turns what might be a run-of-the-mill situation into a fascinating, sometimes melancholy story filled with twists and turns, humour, jealousy and more; and it’s a knockout that will see you fall in love with her brilliant characters.


Clare is in a strange place in her life, growing ever distant from her husband and finding her life lacking in purpose and meaning. That is, until her neighbour Louisa, offers her a chance to assist her with a funeral catering business. Coming as a surprise to herself as much as her family and friends, she decides to take up the offer. 

Throughout the four wakes in the book, a friendship blossoms between the two women, becoming a place of understanding and respite to the challenges they both face at this point in their lives.

Sprinkled in with this story is doctor Chris, whose marriage with his wife is also on the rocks due to several unsuccessful attempts at IVF. When he suffers a mild heart attack, he also begins to question his present and his past, and his interactions with several friends across the book make for some of the most compelling parts of the story, especially when combined with the narration of his former flatmate, Paul, and their mutual connections to Beth. 

The Wakes may be all in the present, but it is a story about the past, how it defines you now, and how to come to terms with the passing of time. It is a hilarious, heartwarming and sometimes sad examination of death, and in the end, how death is the thing that makes life most important. 


Date With A Debut Podcast episode with Dianne Yarwood: 


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