The Wakes, debut fiction by Australian author Dianne Yarwood

1 March 2023

The Wakes, by Dianne Yarwood, book cover

I’m yet to read The Wakes, published by Hachette Australia, March 2023, by Sydney based Australian author Dianne Yarwood, but I’m already convinced it could be adapted to film. I’ve even thought of a name: Four Funerals and a Divorce. I’m not actually sure a divorce even occurs in Yarwood’s fiction debut, there may in fact be two, given the blurb to The Wakes tells us two failing marriages (and four funerals) feature in the story. But back to my big screen adaptation idea.

Since my fanciful film title, Four Funerals and a Divorce, obviously riffs on the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral, directed by Mike Newell, and starring Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant, the two leads could be invited to participate. The rest of the would-be cast though would of course be Australian. But now back to The Wakes.

Sydneysider Clare has recently separated from her husband. She is happy to accept a call for help from Louisa, her neighbour. Louisa runs a catering business that specialises in wakes, the gatherings that take place after funerals. Louisa is overwhelmed with work. Assisting Louisa is a smart move on Clare’s part for several reasons. Wake catering has to be a growth industry. Further, it is somewhat immune to the threats posed to other forms of employment by the likes of AI Chatbots.

But job security, whether Clare is looking for it or not, is moot point. Wake catering might be about to change her life. For it is at one post funeral gathering that Clare makes the acquaintance of Chris. He is a doctor working in the emergency room of a hospital. Chris sees too much death in his job to want to think about going to funerals, but he decides one day to make an exception.

The Wakes is isn’t all wake catering though. In the mix is love both lost and found, unsuccessful rounds of IVF, and the constant comfort that food can bring to the lives of people whose depleted spirits need a little lift.

Prior to penning her first novel, Yarwood worked in accounting and corporate advisory, both in Australia and Europe. She also has an interest in cooking and catering, which seems to have partly inspired her novel. But there’s more. Her life was once saved by an emergency room doctor, an experience that lead Yarwood to focus on her long held writing ambitions. Along with possibly being the genius behind the character of Chris.

Could we be seeing another instance of art imitating life, as we do in a lot of fiction, among the pages of The Wakes?

UPDATE: after waxing lyrical about the possibility of a film adaptation, a reader messaged to let me know a TV series, based on The Wakes, is in the works. A screen adaptation deal was reached last September, with production company Fifth Season.


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