Things She Would Have Said Herself: Novel Review 

Review by Stacey O’Carroll

Author: Catherine Therese

Publisher: Hachette

RRP: $32.99

Release Date: 29 March 2023

“There was no greater mystery to Leslie Bird, aside from Sydney real estate, than her own children.” Catherine Therese

Look close enough, and every family has a Leslie Bird. What if you said all those wild thoughts and opinions that pass through our minds? The characters of Catherine Therese’s first novel, Things She Would Have Said Herself do just that

Leslie Bird is a wife and mother who has strong opinions about how they should run their lives. She is a woman who has suffered substantial loss and pain but is often looked on with disdain by her children, who have a private chat group dedicated to their mother. Leslie despises her family yet longs for the only person she’s ever loved, a child she still grieves. Prepare to meet the weird and wacky Bird family in the lead up to a Christmas lunch that cracks open long-held secrets.

“Lana might be only half Bird, but she was all the proof Leslie needed that what was inherently wrong with their flock was entirely genetically Wallace’s fault.”

The mundane Sydney suburbs come alive in Therese’s novel, where the ordinary street becomes a battleground when Leslie Bird drives past. Therese has filled Things She Would Have Said Herself with familiar, meddling, and mad characters that would likely pop up at any family function. Hide a camera inside a house during a family lunch, and we would see similar scenes of chaos and arguments. 

Therese has a natural talent for capturing real and fallible people in all their messy glory. However, because so many of the characters were so terrible to each other, I found it hard to find a character to connect with, which made the latter half of the novel a bit slower to read. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with challenging characters like the Birds. Sometimes, we need such characters to challenge our thoughts and behaviours. Therese succeeds in doing just that. 

“Leslie Bird’s desire to disconnect words from their meaning impacted not just her children’s bowels but their brain matter.”

Leslie Bird’s worldview is so narrow that her inability to notice the pain of others becomes comical in its absurdity. What lies under all the madness and bonkers characters is a story of grief and love. We can feel grief over a variety of losses, not just people. In Things She Would Have Said Herself, Therese shows her characters struggling to let go, and with the lingering effects of grief. 

Therese’s darkly humorous novel delves into the messy lives we try to keep hidden. Things She Would Have Said Herself is, at times, a confronting read but one that shows the full spectrum of human emotions.