Post Script: The Cowgirl – Anthea Hodgson

The Cowgirl

The Cowgirl

Anthea Hodgson

Penguin Random House

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143797265

 

Description:

Teddy Broderick has lived on her farm almost all her life, committed to the rhythms of the country – seeding, harvest, shearing and the twice daily milking of the cow her grandmother has looked after for years, but she dreams of another life, in the wide world away from the confines of her property.

 

She thinks she knows her home and its community inside out, until her grandmother Deirdre announces there is a house buried on the property, and Will Hastings, an archaeologist, is coming to dig it up again.

 

As they work together to expose Deirdre’s past to the light, the stories they tell bring them together and pull Teddy further away from her home.

 

But what is hidden in Deirdre’s childhood house that she needs to see again before she dies – and why? What is it that stops Teddy from living the life she truly wants? And will she ever find her freedom?

 

 

My View:

A uniquely rural Australian coming of age story that tips it hat at the #MeToo movement.

 

Anthea Hodgson writes empathetic characters that challenge societal pressures to confirm and be controlled. Sometimes there are small victories, though the scars form the many skirmishes take a long time to heal.  Ultimately this is an uplifting book that will bring a tear, all be it a happy tear, to your eye.

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In the Mail 17th February 2018

What a great week or two of new arrivals – my bookshelf is toppling over with the weight 🙂 Among these some great Australian women writers…now where to start? Any recommendations?

 

in the mail feb 17 2018

Guest Post – On Writing Path to the Night Sea – Alicia Gilmore

Path to the Sea

Welcome Alicia Gilmore to my blog. I recently asked Alicia to talk about how she came to write her amazing novel Path to the Night Sea – here is what she shared with me.

 

On writing Path to the Night Sea

 

Path to the Night Sea started as a short story in a fiction class with Sue Woolfe. Sue had given the class a selection of photographs and objects to spark our creativity and give us a physical stimulus to write a short fragment. I remember a small glass perfume bottle and a photograph caught my attention. The photo featured a woman in profile, seated at a piano, her hands poised to strike the keys. There was a cat sitting on top of the piano, and I wondered if these were the two most important things in her life – music and her pet. I started to write about this woman who would sit and play, not looking out of the curtained window, but indoors with her cat. Her face in profile, her ‘good side’… The perfume bottle that perhaps had belonged to a woman who would never get old. A bottle that held scented memories… Ideas and elements came together and what is now a lot of Day One in the novel formed the original short story. Sue read the story, said I had written the start of a wonderful novel and she had to know what happened to Ellie. I realised so I wanted to know too.

The story became darker the more I delved into Ellie’s world. Seven days seemed the fitting structure for Ellie to be introduced to the reader and for her to seek her path, tying in with the religious dogma she’d heard from her Grandmother and Father. Listening to music by Nick Cave and Johnny Cash helped me establish the mood at times and gave me the impetus to embrace the flaws and the darkness within my characters, especially Arthur. When I was writing the first drafts, I was living near the beach and the waves, particularly during storms, formed a natural soundtrack. If I peered out from my desk, I could catch glimpses of the ocean. By the time editing was underway, I had moved to a house that backed onto the bush and had inherited a cat. Listening to the raucous native birds, possums scurrying up trees and across the roof at night, dealing with the odd snake and lizards, plus watching the cat, heightened those natural elements of the story.

I was concerned about and for my characters. I needed to ensure that Arthur in particular had moments, however fleeting, when he was ‘human’, and that Ellie, despite her circumstances, not be passive. Ellie had to find the courage to fight for herself or remain lost to the world forever.   I found myself going off in tangents in early drafts with minor characters and subplots but judicious readers and editing brought the focus back to Ellie and Arthur, and the confines of restricted world they inhabit.

I had thought of letting Ellie go one morning years ago when I woke up and heard the news about Elizabeth Fritzl kidnapped and abused by her father. In my drowsy state listening to the radio, the reality of her situation came crashing in and I wanted to put my humble writings aside. What was fictional pain in the face of such devastating reality? As the recent shocking events in California this week have shown – thirteen children being trapped and chained at home by their parents – a nondescript house on the street can hide the most unimaginable terrors. Path to the Night Sea is my way of using language to explore familial dysfunction, small town horror, and ultimately, hope.

Sea

 

Post Script: Secrets of The Springs – Kerry McGinnis

Secrets of the Springs

Kerry McGinnis

Secret of the Springs

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143784586

 

Description:

When Orla Macrae receives a letter asking her to return to the family cattle property where she grew up, she does so grudgingly. Her estranged uncle Palmer may be dying, but he is the last person she wants to see, not when she’s made a new life far away from where she lost so much. But on his deathbed he utters a few enigmatic words about a secret locked away and a clue as to its whereabouts.

 

Intrigued, Orla decides to stay, reconnecting with old friends and taking a chance on a long-time dream of opening the homestead to tourists. Continuing the search for her uncle’s elusive secret, she discovers far more than she bargained for – a shocking truth about her parents’ marriage, and the confession of a chilling murder.

 

Set in the stunning countryside north of the Barrier Ranges near Broken Hill, this is an authentic tale of life on the land and a gripping mystery about old family secrets and finding love in the harsh Australian bush.

 

My View:

“Kerry McGinnis was born in Adelaide and, at the age of twelve, took up a life of droving with her father and three siblings. The family travelled extensively across the Northern Territory and Queensland before settling on a station in the Gulf Country. Kerry has worked as a shepherd, droving hand, gardener, stock-camp and station cook, eventually running a property at Bowthorn, near Mount Isa. She is the author of two volumes of memoir and now lives in Bundaberg,” https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1219708.Kerry_McGinnis

 

I have now read three (of eight books) Kerry McGinnis’s has written, all have been five star reads. In each the landscapes are diverse in location yet feature rural communities and vibrant likeable characters who you want to cheer on, to do well. McGinnis’s female leads are always strong, intelligent, resourceful women and the protagonist in this book, Orla Macrae fits this mould – strongminded, resourceful, a quick thinker and ahead of her times in commercial acumen (think Airbnb for farm stays set in the 1980’s.) Orla realises that to survive on the land diverse income streams are needed.

 

In this narrative, family dramas and dastardly revelations will surprise the reader, these were different times.

 

Each page is infused with McGinnis’s trade mark love of the land, it is infectious.  Slip under the cover of this impressive book and be transported, listen to the wisdom McGinnis shares: ‘You couldn’t change the past; that was a finished page, one turned over, done with, not to be rewritten. But by constantly harking back to it you could imbue it with the power to cause past deeds to impinge upon the future.’ p353

 

 

 

Post Script: Dear Banjo – Sasha Wasley

Dear Banjo

Dear Banjo

Sasha Wasley

Penguin Random House Au

ISBN: 9780143784524

 

Description:

They were best friends who were never meant to fall in love – but for one of them, it was already way too late.

 

Willow ‘Banjo’ Paterson and Tom Forrest were raised on neighbouring cattle stations in the heart of the Kimberley. As young adults, sharing the same life dreams, something came between them that Willow cannot forget, and now ten years have passed. When her father falls ill, Willow is called home to take over the running of the family property, Patterson Downs. Her vision for a sustainable, organic cattle station is proving hard to achieve. She needs Tom’s help, but is it all too late, and too difficult, to make amends?

 

A pile of Tom’s heartfelt letters has remained unopened and unspoken between them. Willow must find the courage to finally bring them out. Their tattered pages reveal a love story like no other – and one you’ll never forget. Dear Banjo is a wildly romantic and utterly captivating story about first love and second chances, from an exciting new Australian author.

 

 

My View:

A few months ago now, author Sasha Wasley contacted me regarding the release of her new book Dear Banjo and asked if I would be interested in reading and reviewing. We struck up a “on line” friendship – based on our mutual love of our journeys to the north of Western Australia (the cover of her book had evoked many memories of camping/caravanning/working in that region) – based on that red pindan infused cover, I decided to give this book a chance.  And what a fabulous read I discovered!

 

This book is so much more than an Australian rural romance – in fact I would describe it as a coming of age or contemporary fiction, life literature with a dash of humanism. In this read there are three main characters – Willow “Banjo’ Paterson, Tom Forrest and the rugged Kimberly outback. Whilst Patterson Downs is a fictional town, the settings and the local community come to life on the page.

 

The protagonists aspire to sustainable farming practices – a unique perspective in rural writing and hopefully one that is becoming more popular with actual graziers. This aspect of the novel was fascinating, the hero of the book.

 

Engaging, well developed characters, realistic settings and a narrative that enchants this is a must read!

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Right Side – Spencer Quinn

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

The Right Side

The Right Side

Spencer Quinn

Atria Books

ISBN: 9781501118401

 

Description:

 In this riveting new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, a deeply damaged female soldier home from the war in Afghanistan becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl, gains an unlikely ally in a stray dog, and encounters new perils beyond the combat zone.

 

LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.

 

Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington State that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.

 

Enthralling, suspenseful, and psychologically nuanced, The Right Side introduces one of the most unforgettable protagonists in modern fiction: isolated, broken, disillusioned—yet still seeking redemption and purpose—LeAnne takes hold of the reader and never lets go.

 

 

My View:

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

 

If you are expecting another narrative in the style of the Chet and Bernie series – think again. I strongly suggest that you begin this book as if you have just discovered a new to you author – just expect this to be a brilliant read – and then you will not be disappointed.

 

For me this is a book that demands to be read in one sitting. The characters are complex – the psychological revelations are insightful and useful.  You will navigate heartbreaking traumas to reveal the small ray of sunshine, of optimism that prevents this book from being morose and sullen.  The mysteries here will keep the pages turning and you will gain a few perspectives that might surprise you and make you think.

 

This is an outstanding read and I imagine one that will soon be transformed onto the big screen – I wish I had the $$ to produce this one. It will be a winner – guaranteed.