Eloise and the Bucket of Stars by Janeen Brian

eloise and the bucket of starsTitle: Eloise and the Bucket of Stars

Author: Janeen Brian

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Published: 1st June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 240

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: Left in a pail at an orphanage as a baby, only something magical can save Eloise from a miserable life and give her the one she’s always dreamed of.

Orphaned as a baby, Eloise Pail yearns for a family. Instead, she lives a lonely life trapped in an orphanage and made miserable by the cruel Sister Hortense. Befriended by the village blacksmith, Eloise soon uncovers some strange secrets of yesteryear and learns that something terrible may be about to happen to the village. As troubles and dangers mount, she must learn who to trust and choose between saving the village or belonging to a family of her own. Unless something truly magical happens…

  • A powerful tale of how magic weaves its way into the real world.
  • Explores themes of belonging, what it takes to be a friend and what constitutes a family.

~*~

Eloise has spent her whole life in an orphanage run by the cruel Sister Hortense. Sisters Genevieve and Bernard, Sister Genevieve in particular, try to help Eloise, and make things a little more bearable for her. Eloise has never been adopted – trapped in a cruel place that doesn’t value her. Her only place of solace and friendship with the local blacksmith, and his horse, Dancy. Her lessons with Sister Genevieve are cut shortly after Janie Pritchard, a newly orphaned girl arrives. At first, Eloise wants nothing to do with her, but the two soon become friends, and start to unravel the mystery of the poisoned water, and the unicorn stories that Sister Genevieve has told them.

Eloise wants a family more than anything – but Sister Hortense has a secret that has prevented this from happening and will do anything to punish and break Eloise, making her watch the Littlies get adopted and leave the orphanage with new families, and punishing her when she starts to look happy. But with a curse threatening the village, and whispers about men wanting to hunt the unicorn for their own gain. What will Eloise sacrifice to save the unicorn and her village?

Eloise and the Bucket of stars is a charming, delightful and magical story – set in an orphanage during Victorian times, it shows the hardships faced by orphans, and the treatment they received in places like the orphanage Eloise lived in. It also shows how harmful beliefs can be when taken to the extreme and the lengths people like Sister Hortense will go to protect dark secrets – even from those they work with, just to make sure they’re not outed as what drives her to punish Eloise.

AWW2020At its core, this is a story about friendship, being yourself and family – and what makes a family. How does someone like Eloise find a family, and find love, when every time she finds herself in a place where she is happy, it is taken away from her. The world is shown through Eloise’s eyes – and you truly feel for her. Eloise drives this story, and it is slow and lyrical on purpose – we’re meant to feel the drudgery and frustrations of Eloise’s daily life, and her feelings of hopelessness. It is gentle yet when action is required, it happens when and where it needs to.

Family and friendship are strong themes here, where the characters let their individuality, and bonds of friendship shine through the uniformity that Sister Hortense forces upon them. Sully, the cook, is one of Eloise’s friends. Everyone can see how Sister Hortense treats Eloise – but what will make her realise she needs to stop?

This tender story is about finding family and following your heart, and never giving up on your beliefs or compromising for anyone. Staying true to yourself and your dreams is a message at the core of this novel, and it moves gently and eloquently through towards this goal. It is one of those novels that demands time be spent with it to take everything in and let it sink in properly, following Eloise on her journey – the physical journey to get water every day and her own inner journey to finding family and friendship. It is Janie who sparks this journey and what will happen in the second half of the novel, and Janeen has created a beautiful story that will be beloved by many for years to come.

I loved this book – it evoked the same sense of wonder that The Secret Garden did all those years ago, with an orphaned child discovering magic beyond what she could ever imagine in a mundane world that didn’t appreciate her at first. Orphans are common in children’s literature and dealing with them in gentle ways, and each story is of course different, and this one had a sense of magic and wonder about it that many don’t, which is what made it so special and why I really enjoyed it, and hope that younger readers do as well.

Orla and the Serpent’s Curse by C.J. Halsam

orlaTitle: Orla and the Serpent’s Curse

Author: C.J. Halsam

Genre: Magical Realism

Publisher: Walker Books

Published: 1st June 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A spooky adventure set in Cornwall; Famous Five with a twist.

A long-dead Cornish witch to thwart and a curse to stop  it’s just another family holiday. Orla thought she was in for a relaxing break, but when she finds a mysterious glowing necklace in the woods, it turns out there is a slight possibility she may have uncovered a witch’s ancient curse. After meeting a coven of suspicious old ladies, it becomes clear that Orla’s arrival in Cornwall is no longer a coincidence. The curse is poisoning the land and destroying everything it touches, and Orla is the one person who can stop it. But she’ll need help from the only other member of the family with good instincts – Dave the dog.

  • A witchy 10+ children’s debut from Sunday Timesjournalist C. J. Haslam.
  • Orla is a budding conservationist and the curse in the book manifests itself through poisoned and barren land.
  • Has an incredibly appealing character in Dave, the grumpy Jack Russell who thinks he’s a member of Special Forces. Orla has two older brothers and a newly acquired friend called Raven – together, they make a great modern-day Scooby Doo gang / Famous Five.

~*~

Orla Perry is off to Cornwall with her mum, brothers, Tom and Richard, and faithful dog, Dave. They arrive at the cottage – but their holiday is far from relaxing. After Orla begins to explore their new surrounds and meets Mrs Spark and her friends, after she finds a mysterious necklace in the woods. This is only the beginning of her problems. As the story moves along, Dave distances himself from Orla, the old ladies Orla has met begin to tell her of witches and curses, and a woman called Pedervander Masey, and a mystery surrounding the area that is slowly revealed as Orla and her brothers and their new friend, Raven, seek to uncover the truth behind all the darkness of the area.

To save the land from the curse, Orla, Raven, Tom and Richard must follow a strange set of directions and an unusual path with items from one of the resident witches, or pellers, as they are called in this novel, to prevent the curse from poisoning the land – even if this means travelling back in time. What is it about the mysterious glowing necklace that draw Orla to it – and what trouble is it causing? With dark magic at work, Orla is drawn to the desire to investigate and find out what is going on – and stop the curse from destroying those she loves, and anyone else in the area. She’s a gutsy girl, and seeing the breadth of the types of characters children can relate to these days.

Set in the same area as many of the Famous Five books, this is a fresh tale on the idea of adventuring and gallivanting children – minus the lashings of ginger beer with added magic and spells. It is filled with wonder and danger, and can be scary in some parts, in particular the climax, which is where the high stakes scenes take place in most books. This is a fantastic book, and one I loved to review for Walker Books Australia – the middle grade landscape these days is a wonderful array of books, and there are many more that I am going to be exploring in coming reviews.

We all need a bit of magic in our lives, and in this book, it is delivered in spades. Tragedy happens in some places, and the kids go off on the adventures as they do in The Famous Five, but there is still a parental figure around, though she’s got no idea what Orla and her brothers are up to during their holiday.

This world really came to life – everything had an element of magic within in, and for someone who has never been to Cornwall, but would like to one day, the sense of place in past and present, from the cottage of the sea, and the surrounding countryside and forest. The setting is as much a character as the human characters, and Dave is one of the best characters – an astute dog who knows who he can trust and who to help, it is instincts that will help save the day.

Filled with magic, mystery, humour and the thrill of the cashes, Orla and the Serpent’s Curse is a delightful middle grade novel for readers aged ten and over.

Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington

SnowWhiteCover copyTitle: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women
Author: Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
Genre: Fairy tales, Fantasy,
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: 1st May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 120
Price: $32.99
Synopsis: An enchanting collection of little-known fairy tales about young women who prevail because of their kindness and compassion

1. Snow-White & Rose Red save an enchanted bear from an ungrateful goblin
2. Marushka is sent to find strawberries in the snow by her cruel step-sister but wins the help of the Twelve Months
3. Ailsa climbs Mischanter Mountain to rescue her sister, armed with nothing more than her sewing kit and her parents’ blessing
4. Reinhilda outwits a witch and saves her sweetheart
5. A kind henwife helps Morag find a home for her family with the help of a magic pot
6. Agnes and a young Romany woman together overcome the curse of an enchanted cup
7. Brigid honours a promise she made, even though it takes her to the underworld and back

With an introduction by Isobelle Carmody, Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women contains tales from Germany, Slovenia, Ireland and the Scottish Travellers.

It will transform the way you think about fairy tales.

~*~

For the third time in the past few years, superstar author and illustrator team, Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington have collaborated on amazing collections of fairy tales. These fairy tales come from all traditions, and often have several versions across different countries and cultures, that fit into one of the Aarne-Thompson classifications that categorises fairy tales and folk tales thematically under numbers and a brief description of the type of archetypes and characters present in the tales collected from all cultures across the world. Under this classification system, each fairy tale or folk tale type and then each folk or fairy tale, is listed for comparison and is an easy way – once you’ve learned the system – to find all the tales that come under something like Tale Type 313 – ‘The Magic Flight’. This tale type is one of the world’s most widely told stories, and Kate retells an example in this collection, called ‘Tricking the Witch’.

AWW2020From the first story retold, ‘Snow White and Rose Red’, is another common tale to the last – ‘The Corpse Watchers’ – Kate has drawn on fairy tales from lesser known traditions, but also, fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm that aren’t as well-known as some, and in some cases, literary Victorian fairy tales written or recorded by women. In these retellings, Kate has given the female characters agency, and carefully removed pejorative terms from one or two where she has been able to, in order to make them inclusive whilst still capturing the oral magic of these tales, and the beauty behind the tales. They capture the historical periods they were recorded in or originated from (at the point we can trace to) perfectly, whilst still evoking a sense of wonder and magic that comes with fairy tales. They are in lands far, far away yet at the same time, in familiar places that live deep within us – even if we have not been there physically.

Kate’s magical and evocative words are accompanied by the delightful illustrations by Lorena Carrington, who uses photography and everyday objects to create her images – in the author and illustrator notes after each tale, Kate and Lorena describe their process for each tale, which adds to the richness of the book, the stories and the illustrations. Each illustration is layered with texture and colour, with silhouetted figures against colourful and textured backdrops, or framed in a door or window against a white background. I found it really hard to choose a favourite – they were all lovely and fit very nicely with the rest of the series. Kate and Lorena are currently working on the fourth book in the series, and I’m eager to see what they do with that one, and if they are able to, any others. Each book has seven stories – a magic number in fairy tales!

This is one of those books that will be treasured and adored, and will set well with other fairy tale collections and fairy tale retellings. I love Kate and Lorena’s work, and hope that there will be many more of these collections to come.

 

Elephant Me by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

elephant meTitle: Elephant Me
Author: Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hachette/Orchard Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: $24.99
Price: 32
Synopsis: The empowering story of little elephant Num-Num, who discovers the importance of simply being YOU! From the creators of international bestseller and much-loved classic Giraffes Can’t Dance.

It’s time for the Elephant Games! One by one, the young elephants compete to impress King Elephant Mighty and earn their Elephant Name.
Nina is the strongest, so she becomes Elephant Strong.
Norcus is the loudest, so he becomes Elephant Noisy.
Little Elephant Num-Num thinks he will never discover his own special talent – until he learns that the very best thing you can be is YOU!

~*~

Elephant Num-Num has to show King Elephant Mighty a special talent to get his Elephant Name during the Elephant Games – every other elephant can, but Num-Num finds he doesn’t have a special talent – he’s just him. Driven away from the Elephants, Num-Num befriends the other animals, who see him for who he is and encourage him to be him – the best thing he can be! Discover how Num-Num encourages the other elephants to discover the best them and be who they are, not who they are expected to be.

Through a rhyming story that ebbs and flows, Giles Andreae tells the story of a young elephant searching for who he is, and in turn, teaches the other elephants to be who they are. Accompanied by delightfully fun and colourful illustrations of the elephants and the other animals by Guy Parker-Rees, the story really pops and comes to life beautifully. He brings the African bush to life, in a fun and accessible way, using colour and bright shades. The animals all being friends by the waterhole is a lovely image, and one of my favourites of the entire book. I loved that each elephant had its own personality through the words and images, and both of these elements worked together to show the beauty and individuality that we should all celebrate within ourselves.

The words and images capture what it is like to be you and not fall into line with what others expect, and what it means to face up to those who have tried to make you believe you shouldn’t fall into line. The bright images are fun, and engaging, and the rhyming, lyrical feel of the words is great for readers at all stages, whether learning to read, being read to or just looking for a fun read that teaches kids that being who they are is sometimes more important than following trends and trying to fit in for the sake of fitting in.

This would be great to be shared between parents and kids, in classes across the board, or just for people to read for themselves. It’s a fun little story with an important message, and best of all, it uses elephants to tell the story – and really, where can you go wrong with elephants in a story like this? It is truly a beautiful book and one with a lovely message that will always be treasured.

The Giant and the Sea by Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)

the giant and the seaTitle: The Giant and the Sea
Author: Trent Jamieson, Rovina Cai (Illutrator)
Genre: Fiction, Eco-themes
Publisher: Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books
Published: 26th May 2020
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Price: $26.99
Synopsis: A stunningly beautiful and powerful take on climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope. With lyrical text by acclaimed author Trent Jamieson and illustrations by CBCA Award-winner Rovina Cai that will resonate long after reading. For fans of Shaun Tan and Armin Greder.
A giant stands on the shore, watching the sea. She never moves, never speaks, until the day she turns to a little girl and says, ‘The sea is rising.’
The brave girl takes the message to the town. But when the people refuse to listen, the giant must find another way to save them.
Perfect for the children of the Climate Strike, this is a lyrical and deeply moving story about climate change, standing up for what you believe in, and the power of hope.

~*~

A giant stares out at the sea – she can see something is wrong – the sea is rising. The young girl she meets tries to pass on the message – but the townsfolk ignore it – can the giant save them before it is too late? Climate change is a big topic now and has been for many years. Over the past few years, there have been many and varied books about climate change, how to reduce waste and various strategies on how to help. One of the latest books in this genre is The Giant and the Sea – which combines the real world issues of climate change and unwillingness to listen and act with a fantasy, far off world to illustrate what climate change is to younger readers and readers of all ages.

Trent Jamieson’s story gently and quietly tells the story of a world under threat from a rising sea. It can be read on several levels – the simplicity of needing to find safety, and as readers gain confidence or deeper understanding – what the rising sea and dark machine mean and how they are connected to climate change. From there, readers can work out that action must be taken. Trent’s simple yet complex and layered cyclical narrative is combined effectively with Rovina Cai’s illustrations, which are in shades of darker colours – browns and greys, black and muddied shades to show the despondency of the giant and the characters. At times it does feel hopeless – and this reflects the reality of the climate change issue that Trent is writing about.

It is one of those books that feels like it stays with you long after you read it, and it will. It is one that can be revisited over and over, taught in class and used as an example at all levels of education to teach about climate change or how to deal with climate change in literature and make it an accessible topic for all ages. This will be ideal to teach in classes across the board, and to open up discussions about climate change as well as differences of opinion, and how to talk about these issues with people who might not be as receptive to some issues.

This story really brought the issues to life, and because it ends the way it starts, it has a cyclical feel – that this is an ongoing issue and discussion that will always be talked about, always get attention. However, this book is also a warning that we need to act – and act soon.

Ideal for children aged four and over, this is a sensitive way to teach them about climate change and open up discussions about what is going on in the world today.

 

Isolation Publicity with Josephine Moon

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

cake makers wish

Joephine Moon has written several books, but it’s her latest, The Cake Maker’s Wish, that has been impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. She found out early on in the crisis, and as the days and weeks went on, like many, things were cancelled left, right and centre. This interview is getting some of her publicity out there in these trying times.

Hi Josephine and welcome to The Book Muse

1. To begin with, what was the book you were supposed to be launching in the next few months when the pandemic hit, and can you tell my readers what it is about?

I was in my publisher’s office having a team meeting to discuss the publicity and marketing strategies for The Cake Maker’s Wish quite early on in the history of Covid19. I don’t think any of us could have predicted that within weeks they’d be cancelling all author tours and events. It happened so fast.

The Cake Maker’s Wish follows the story of Olivia Kent, who bravely decides to move herself and her young son Darcy from their family home in Richmond, Tasmania, to the (fictional) village of Stoneden in the Cotswolds in England. She (along with many others from around the world) has answered the call to help the village in an experimental project to revive its dying economy. At the same time, she has just one wish—to have a family once more. She hopes that the move may help her reconnect with her grandmother’s history in the village, perhaps find some long-lost relatives, help Darcy to connect with his Norwegian father, or at the very least build a new family of village friends. When she gets there, though, she finds that not everyone in the village is as happy about the project as she believed. And while she hasn’t thought about romance in eight years, some unexpected opportunities arise.

2. Are all your books family dramas, or do you dabble in other genres and styles?

Both The Beekeeper’s Secret and The Gift of Life are mysteries.

3. What attracts you to writing family dramas?

It’s funny, but I haven’t really ever thought of them as family dramas necessarily, though you’re right in that they all contain main characters and their family circumstances either support or hinder their progress. I guess the family—whatever it looks like—is the building block of society and also the main driver behind people’s formative experiences and therefore personalities and behaviours. The narrative richness about families is that they are all so different. There are literally endless possibilities to explore in terms of relationship dynamics. Probably, too, the reason family can be such a strong theme in my books is because I frequently write multi-generational point-of-view characters, therefore they do tend to be linked by family bonds of some sort.

4. The new novel begins in Tasmania, and the moves to the Cotswolds in England – what made you choose these two locations in particular?

I went to the Cotswolds to find a story and was indeed lucky enough to find one so that setting was naturally driven by my time there. As for Tasmania, I simply love the island! My dad and stepmother had a cottage in Tasmania for a number of years and I’ve been down there many times. The first time I went to Evandale I declared that I would set a book there—and I wasn’t even yet published! (That book became my second novel, The Chocolate Promise.) I hold fantasies of having a second home down there where I go simply to write books. I had originally intended for there to be more than one chapter set in Tasmania but as it worked out, we only have the prologue. On the up side, I think that gives me an excuse to try again in the future for another Tasmanian book

5. Can you tell my readers about Story Dogs?

Story Dogs is a nation-wide charity that supports early readers by providing volunteers and their dogs as a form of reading assistance. They primarily have their human-dog teams going into schools, where the kids can read to the dogs. The dogs lift their confidence and provide a comforting, non-judgemental ear.

6. What made you decide to become involved with Story Dogs?

Originally, I wanted to be a volunteer for them with my Golden Retriever, Daisy. My son wasn’t yet in school but I thought it was wonderful and wanted to help. But when I read about the attributes a good reading dog needed, I realised Daisy would never pass the test as she was way too excitable. When Flynn started Prep, I came across the organisation again and thought it was a great initiative and one that married together many of my passions—animals, kids and literacy.

7. Prior to becoming an author, what did you teach, and what about this subject did you enjoy?

I was a high school English teacher as well as teaching Film and TV. I don’t think I enjoyed much about it, which is why I didn’t last long 😉

In hindsight, I think I should have been a primary school teacher. When I left high school teaching, I did eighteen months on contracts in primary schools and really enjoyed it. In primary school, you get the chance to build strong relationships and nurture young minds and capture that sense of natural curiosity and love of learning. I love that. After my son started at school and I was volunteering in his class, I had a real hankering to get back in the classroom. It hasn’t really gone away, but there is no way I could write novels and teach as well.

8. What sort of books did you edit during your editorial career?

I worked in an aerospace company for two years, editing aircraft maintenance manuals and company tenders. I also got myself a niche role creating training workshops for the engineers to improve their communication skills, which broke up the monotony of the job, but the whole experience was pretty soul destroying for a creative person. After that, I got a job as a project editor, working on full-colour high school text books. It was such a fun job. Hands down the best job I ever had. (And I have had a LOT of jobs! All good research material now for building characters.)

9. When did you decide to write a novel, and what gave you the confidence to submit to a publisher?

In 1999, I attended at workshop with the Queensland Writers Centre and had what I call a ‘full body moment’ when I thought, ‘This is it—this is what I want to do with the rest of my life’ I knew that I couldn’t just write a novel, though. That’s a bit like trying to build a house when you can’t even pitch a tent. I spent years writing short stories and articles and lots of other things. At some point I moved to novels and wrote across many different genres. It took me a long time to find the style I wanted to write in. Along the way, I submitted manuscripts to agents and publishers and was rejected by everyone in the country at least once.

I don’t think I ever felt confident; I’m not sure I ever feel that way even now. What I did feel was passion for wanting to improve and a hope that wouldn’t die, no matter how many times I was rejected. I’m a big believer in just having a go, so I think that was always my driving force.

10. Have you had any shorter pieces published elsewhere?

Yes, several short stories and multiple articles for newspapers and magazines.

11. When not writing or helping with Story Dogs, what do you enjoy doing?

I’m a huge animal lover, and we live with a lot of animals, so I’m always patting a cat, playing with a dog, or taking care of horses or goats. I bake a lot and read a lot. I also work as the Business Coordinator for an aged care company and create digital content for them too. And, of course, I am a mum to a gorgeous seven-year-old and that’s a huge part of my day and life.

12. Which is easier to write – fiction or non-fiction, or do you find each has its own challenges?

For me, non-fiction is far easier for the simple fact that all the information you want is already ‘out there’ somewhere. Your role then becomes one of being a curator of that information. Writing fiction on the other hand is so difficult. You are creating whole worlds and people out of nothing. It’s much trickier to find the boundaries of the story and set the course for the narrative and I spend vast amounts of time rewriting. Non-fiction uses a completely different part of my brain so it’s an enjoyable counterpoint.

13. Did your background in education and literacy help when it came to crafting your stories?

Being an editor definitely helped because you need to drill down into the really fine points of language that are mostly overlooked.

14. During your writing process, what kind of research do you do?

Research is my happy place and I spent loads of time there. It’s where I find my stories, the inspiration for characters and content for settings. I love location research for settings. I’m also very much a ‘method writer’, so if my character wants to do a coffee cupping, I need to do it too to have that hands-on experience to write about. I also do a lot of interviews with people because human beings are always the best source of information.

15. What events did you have to cancel when the lockdown hit Australia, and which were you looking forward to?

All my touring events were cancelled. Usually, I visit several cities and do dozens of book signings and author talks. I love meeting readers and I’m lucky enough to have some people come out to see me every year. I’m really sad about not seeing my readers.

16. You’ve worked in education and the arts – how do you think these industries complement each other?

Education (at its best) teaches us how to think. The arts teach us how to think creatively, differently and compassionately, and strengthens our resilience.

17. Top five books or authors that you always enjoy?

Monica McInerney, Marian Keyes, JoJo Moyes, Liane Moriarty, and two new favourites this year in Rachel Givney (Jane in Love) and Rose Hartley (Maggie’s Going Nowhere).

18. What are your plans for your future novels?

Right now, I’m working on my 2021 book, currently called The Jam Queen. After that, I honestly don’t know. With the world as it is right now, I’m finding it difficult to organise three meals a day, let alone a new novel

There are many things I’d still like to write, passion projects and children’s stories, and I have many non-fiction books still inside me that I’d like to bring forth too. Part of being a creative is that I need to stay open to what comes my way. I’m always open to a story ‘arriving’ and demanding to be written.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for having me along and for supporting authors, especially at this time. The Cake Maker’s Wish is out on 2 June and pre-orders are open now, with all the links here.

Thanks Josephine!

A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink

A Treacherous CountryTitle: A Treacherous Country
Author: K.M. Kruimink
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 21st April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: The winner of the prestigious literary award that has launched over a hundred authors – The Australian/Vogel’s Literary award
WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN/VOGEL’S LITERARY AWARD

There is a woman, somewhere, here, in Van Diemen’s Land, unless she had died or otherwise departed, called Maryanne Maginn.

Gabriel Fox, the young son of an old English house, arrives in a land both ancient and new.

Drawn by the promise of his heart’s desire, and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabriel begins his quest into Van Diemen’s Land.

His guide, a Cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north where Gabriel might free himself of his distracting burden and seek the woman he must find. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.

Authentic, original and playful, A Treacherous Country is a novel of loyalty, wisdom and the freedom to act.

~*~

When Gabriel Fox arrives in Australia in 1820 – just over thirty years since the First Fleet arrived, he sets out with his Irish companion, called his Cannibal, to Van Diemen’s land in search of a woman who was transported thirty years ago – Maryanne Maginn. But he’s also running away from pain at home, and seeking something new, which he hopes to find in this wild country – as seen through the eyes of those who came here from Europe. On this quest into Van Diemen’s land, Gabriel does not know what he will find nor what dangers he will stumble across as he seeks to find this woman who was transported when she was very young. As Gabriel searches for her, her learns more about this country and land that is new to him – yet so ancient for others, and for another group, it is a prison. Gabriel’s task is simple – find out whether Maryanne is dead or alive – and survive his journey.

The story is told solely through Gabriel’s eyes, so we see the results of colonisation through his lens and what others tell him about the convicts and displacement – which is hinted at throughout the novel, but the main focus is the quest for Maryanne, more than the history of the land and colonisation. Through this quest, Gabriel shows how little those who are new to this country understand the land, but also, their desire to tame it for their own will. It shows how colonisation affected the land – and a world shown through the eyes of those with power – and what this means for those forgotten or ignored.

AWW2020It is a quest with a clear goal, yet an ending that might lead into another story, as it was so open to interpretation, anything could have happened, but I think I know what the author was aiming for – to find out you’ll have to read it for yourself though. It is a book about freedom in some ways and being a prisoner or tied to something awful in other ways, as shown through Gabriel’s eyes, story and experience. It is another way of exploring Australia’s history in a micro sense – taking one experience and telling that story to expand on what we already know, or to add to the myriad of voices out there. This is just one example of how the known story is not the only one out there. There are many others that can be told from a variety of diverse perspectives, and to be able to read them alongside this story and other stories would help give a well-rounded view of Australian history.

K.M. Kruimink has crafted a story that is compelling and intriguing, and that explores the unknown world of Van Diemen’s land, as well as the interior world and mind of her main character, Gabriel. The isolation he feels physically mirrors the isolation and at times, desolation he feels emotionally and mentally as his mind and body battle an unknown world and situation. It is an interesting novel – one that needs to have time spent with it to unravel everything in the novel, and work out where everyone fits and especially, some parts of the final chapters. Not everything is made obvious, but this is what makes it work within the scope and purposes of the novel. It is at times gentle and at times wild, but when combined, these aspects are what makes the novel work for what is and its audience.

It is more literary than historical, though the historical elements are there and help to create the world that Gabriel is in, showing just how the colonists saw Australia and Van Diemen’s land as wild and untamed land as they see it. This was an intriguing novel that will certainly find an interested audience, and sometimes, it is these stories of individuals that give history its colour and richness, in all shapes and forms.