You will experience the severe stifling heat of Australia and a bit of damp, cloudy England in this novel.
The characters are very real, the dialogue rings true with marital problems, tensions of a horrible job, unrealistic expectations and secrets. Sounds like a bummer but you will love and hate on the characters and want to know what happened in their lives.
The story shifts from 1967 to 1997, back and forth. The main narrator is Isla Green. She is 6 years old in 1967 and loves living in her Australian home. She adores her father. She thought everyone had a house with a backyard stretching to the ocean. Her parents are Joe and Louisa Green, both English but have moved to Australia to start a new life. Trouble is, Louisa doesn’t love it. She misses England and hates the heat but I suspect her biggest problem is an alcoholic husband.
Next door are Mandy and Steve Mallory. Isla spends quite a bit of time with Mandy and loves her. Steve wants Mandy to get pregnant but both parties have different ideas about their future together. Steve has a horrible job as a policeman who removes aboriginal children from their families, placing them at The Home where they will be fostered and eventully learn a trade.
In 1967 women didn’t have joint accounts at the bank and have access to their husband’s earnings. It was a different world and this makes it harder for Louisa and Mandy to make life altering decisions.
Be prepared to read this one straight through. Would I buy more by this author? Oh, absolutely. This is Allott’s first novel and I will preorder her next publication as soon as it’s an option.
The genre is mystery, thriller, suspense and crime drama. Please read the author’s note at the end of the book. She details how the novel came about as well as her educational reading about Britain’s relationship with Australia and the colonial past.
Thinking of Steve Mallory’s police duties I would suggest watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence. It’s worthwhile. It details a dark time when Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families to be trained and educated, placed in horific foster care and made servants. But in Rabbit Proof Fence two sisters escape.
Food: There wasn’t too much in the way of food mentioned, and I am always mindful of foodie stuff in my reading, but there was a scene where Mandy made a stew for Steve. She heaped a bowl with some savory stew and Steve told her it was delicious. When she went outsdie to escape for a moment she saw him getting another helping. So, I made a batch of chicken and dumplings. So good, hard to not get seconds. The slow cooker recipe is on Squirrel Head Manor.
Susan Allott is a British author who lived and worked in Sydney, Australia, in the late nineties. She now lives in London with her children and very Australian husband.
Sharing with Joy for British Isles Friday