Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 27, 2020

The Spill (2020), by Imbi Neeme

Just a quick review for this one, I have to bake some pastries for a small gathering at a friend’s place this afternoon.

Winner of the Penguin Literary Prize, Imbi Neeme’s debut novel is a cautionary tale: The Spill is the story of an ordinary family whose relationships are distorted by alcohol.

Sour, bad-tempered Samantha blames all the problems in her life on her alcoholic mother, Tina.  After her parents split up, she first lived with her father Craig, and then when his second marriage failed, with went to live with his ex-wife Donna-Louise.  She is scornful about wife no 3, Celine, who is much younger than her father, but she is scornful about a lot of things.  Married to an improbably patient man called Trent, she has a daughter called Rosemary, and she also has a drinking problem, except that she hides her drinking whereas her mother does not.

Nicole, OTOH, is remarkably patient with this termagant of a sister who causes scenes over every little thing, and does a fine performance in flouncing out of any gathering that makes her feel uncomfortable.  Nicole is married to an improbably nice (and delightfully rich) man called Jethro, but although Samantha is jealous, Nicole does not Have It All.  However like nearly everyone in this family she keeps things to herself, and it is the gradual unravelling of the mysteries of the past like pieces of a jigsaw that sustains the novel through to its conclusion.

Despite its arguments and dramas, the novel offers some witty dialogue and some funny scenes.  Trent gets some amusing lines, and Jethro wins Nicole’s interest at their first meeting when he disparages the family’s Rolls Royce.  Although I am really not keen on the Dysfunctional Family Novel genre, there is a lot to like about this book.

Kim reviewed it at Reading Matters  and so did Theresa at Theresa Smith Writes. 

Author: Imbi Neeme
Title: The Spill
Publisher: Penguin Random House, 2020
ISBN: 9781760893767, pbk., 332 pages
Source: personal library, purchased from Benn’s Books Bentleigh



  1. Love the cover, Lisa. Sounds like something I’d enjoy and happily read if I came across it, but is probably something that will not come my way and that I wouldn’t seek out given my current reading plans and desires.


    • This is one of the ones I bought as part of my plan to buy Australian new launches and at the same time keep my favourite bookshops in business.
      Not that it was just me, of course, it’s been wonderful to see that so many other customers have rallied to the cause and they are both still trading:)
      Actually, it’s been amazing to see how few businesses have actually closed. There was so much gloom and doom about the economy from the Feds, but, at least in our part of the world, in the shopping centres I go to, it all looks pretty much as it did before.
      I don’t buy a lot of Christmas presents because we’ve already all got so much anyway, but those I did buy all came from local small businesses.


      • Yes, I’ve been commenting about the doom and gloom as well and how so often it doesn’t quite work out as badly as the forecasters usually say. Same here re shops. If I think very hard I can name two or three in the area that look like they’ve permanently closed, though a couple I suspect were already struggling, but basically the shopping centres here look the same. Of course our lockdown was much shorter than yours.One luggage store closed for a week or so, after trading at “closing down prices” which the staff member said was trying to trade out of their problems. It was in the hands of administrators the sign said but they were very soon open again. That was probably August and they are still open.

        Overall I believe the bookshops have done very well which suggests that people have returned to reading. How many will stick with it?


        • Who knows? I’ve heard more from people complaining about how they can’t concentrate to read, so I don’t have a clear picture of what’s really happening.
          There’s an astonishing number of small businesses that fail every year, apparently. It’s in the thousands, so it will be interesting to see what the economists have to say about the issue once they get their numbers straight.


          • I heard that too, and of course it was a bit for me because of unrelated issues to the pandemic, so I’ve been interesting to here form booksellers I know, including Brona, and articles I’ve read, that bookshops have had a good year.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the link, Lisa. I enjoyed this one. The structure worked well, I think, and made it that little more complex than the usual straightforward story about a dysfunctional family.


  3. Thanks for the link. Glad you’ve read it and enjoyed it!


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