Life is full of downs and ups…
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Dolly Jamieson is not homeless, she’s merely between permanent abodes. The 78-year-old spends her days keeping warm at the local library, where she enjoys sparring with the officious head librarian and helping herself to the free morning tea. It’s not so bad, really.
But it’s certainly a far cry from the 1960s, when this humble girl from Geelong became an international star of the stage. As the acclaimed lead in the Broadway production of The Rose of France, all Dolly’s dreams had come true.
So how, in her old age, did she end up here?
When Jane Leveson, a well-to-do newcomer to the library, shows an interest in Dolly, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship – and soon Jane is offering to help Dolly write her memoirs.
Yet Dolly can detect a deep sadness in the younger woman’s eyes. Perhaps by working together to recount the glittering highs, devastating lows and tragic secrets of Dolly’s life, both women can finally face their pasts and start to heal . . .
We have an excerpt for you, but first, a few words from the author, Lisa Ireland
It’s been a few years between new releases for me, so I’m absolutely thrilled to introduce you to THE ONE AND ONLY DOLLY JAMIESON.
Some books are a dream to write, they flow seamlessly from the fingers, almost as if by magic. This was not one of those books! DOLLY was first drafted in 2020, during the long months of Victorian lockdowns. The first version was quite different to the book that is on shelves today. When I submitted that early version to my publisher, she gently told me that the book was quite dark and perhaps not working as well as it could… and she was absolutely right!
It took another year of painstaking revisions for me to be happy with the story. It was a lot of work and at times I felt like giving up, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
Those months of revisions unearthed Dolly’s true character. She’s fierce and resilient, but also vulnerable and caring. Out of all the characters I’ve written, I think she’s my favourite.
I hope you love her as much as I do!
BUY The One and Only Dolly Jamieson
Excerpt from The One and Only Dolly Jamieson
by Lisa Ireland
‘Good morning, Dolly. How are you today?’
Fucking freezing, if you must know.
I smile at Stacey, the senior librarian, and keep my thoughts to myself. Profanity isn’t tolerated in the library. I’ve learnt that the hard way. ‘I’m quite well, darling. And you?’
Her lips return my smile, but her eyes are steely. ‘I’m fine. Just to let you know, we have an author talk at eleven so it might get a tad busy in here this morning.’
Stacey seems taken aback by the question. ‘A local fellow, Mike Heatherton. He’s written a history of the neighbourhood. Probably not your cup of tea.’
Most of the librarians here are lovely. If I happen to miss one of the author talks or events, sweet little Jemima saves me a biscuit or a piece of pound cake, and Vanessa’s always finding new novels or memoirs she thinks might interest me. But Stacey is different. She screws up her nose when she sees me coming and never has time to listen to my stories.
Stacey just wants me to go away. Of course, she can’t come right out and say that. Her job is to serve the public. And I’m the public. So as long as I don’t swear or cause a scene, she has to tolerate me.
‘I’m actually quite interested in the local area,’ I say. ‘Is it recent history? Perhaps the author and I will have some acquaintances in common. Back in the day, Patricia Heywood – you remember her? She was a big star back in the seventies. Anyway, she used to share a flat with Eva Grant, just on the other side of the park there. They had the best parties—’
‘Medieval,’ Stacey says drily. ‘A little before your time – or Patricia’s, for that matter.’
‘Never mind. I’m sure that will be interesting too.’
‘Well,’ she says, ‘the first three rows are reserved for the historical society, so you’ll need to sit in the back.’
‘Absolutely fine, darling. Thank you for your help. It’s been a pleasure, as always.’
She hates it when I’m overly polite. It gives her nowhere to go. She nods then and averts her gaze, making a show of looking at a pile of papers on the desk in front of her. I take my cue and continue making my way into the library, but I can’t resist a parting shot. ‘I’ll let you know my thoughts about the author over morning tea, don’t worry!’
That’s when I notice her: a new woman, standing in the magazine section. She’s pretending to flip through a home magazine, but really, she’s watching me. How utterly delightful to have an audience! I take a seat in one of the armchairs opposite the magazine racks and theatrically remove my scarf and gloves before taking out my notebook. I make a show of scribbling some notes, but I’m watching her out of the corner of my eye.
I love having someone new to observe. Mostly, it’s the same old regulars in here day in, day out. Some I know by name – Glenda, who comes in to borrow books to read over the phone to her grandchildren in Scotland; Vincent, who reads nothing but crime novels; and young Erin, who still hasn’t told her mum that’s she’s dropped out of university. There are others who don’t like to chat too much, but we nod at each other politely, all of us pretending that we’re here by choice, as we while away the hours in this sanctuary for the lonely.
At a guess, the newcomer is aged somewhere between forty and fifty. She’s dressed smartly, albeit rather blandly, in expensive brands – I can tell this from the way they hang on her frame. The skirt might even be made to measure. She’s carrying a Gucci tote, just like the one I used to own.
Everything about this woman screams ‘money’. Her hair is ash-blonde, bordering on grey in places, and it’s styled into a smooth bob. Her make-up is natural but flawless – nude lipstick and nothing heavy around the eyes. I watch as she removes her coat and drapes it elegantly over her arm. She seems completely out of place in here.
I would have assumed she was the visiting author if Stacey hadn’t already told me today’s guest speaker is a man. So I wonder what she’s doing here. She looks like the type of woman who buys books at Harrods; one who wouldn’t bother to sign up for a library card. Maybe she is an author, researching her next novel. Unlikely in our little community library, I think – novelists all seem to hang out in cafes these days, and the serious researchers are at the British Library or at least one of the bigger suburban branches. Still, it’s not impossible. Perhaps this woman’s just getting started in her career.
Oh, how lovely it would be to have another creative type in the library! Most of the other regulars are nice enough, but we have so little in common. There are only so many photos of other people’s grandchildren one can bear to look at. I imagine having conversations with this woman about her creative process, or even just the arts in general. What I wouldn’t give to have a meaningful discussion about the theatre, or a new gallery that’s opened. Dear god, even some chitchat about the latest bestselling novels would be good. It would help me to know which books I should be harassing Stacey to order for the large-print collection.
Of course, the newcomer might be a one-time visitor – or a complete bore – but there’s no harm in hoping otherwise.
She catches me looking at her and I smile, but her eyes dart away. I hoist myself out of the armchair and place my notebook down on it to save my place.
She notices me approaching and this time she meets my gaze.
‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Are you new here? I couldn’t help but notice you’re looking a bit lost. I’m a regular, so I know this library like the back of my hand. Is there something I can help you with?’
The sadness in her eyes leaks into her words. ‘I’m afraid nobody can help me.’
Australian Bestselling Author
Getting to the heart of female friendship and the lives of women
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