A Lighthouse in Time (The Adamson Adventures #2) by Sandra Bennett

A Lighthouse in timeTitle: A Lighthouse in Time (The Adamson Adventures #2)

Author: Sandra Bennett

Genre: Adventure

Publisher: Elephant Tree Publishing

Published: August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 160

Price: $16.00

Synopsis: Zac doesn’t believe in ghosts; he’s never seen any scientific proof of their existence. Clare is skeptical but open-minded to the possibility. She likes the idea of ghosts and fairies, even angels. Luke is convinced they have encountered a ghost at Caves Beach. He is the one who is determined to lead them on a ghost hunt to the old ruined lighthouse on the point at Cape st George.

Join the Adamson siblings on their second adventure as they discover a ghost desperate to save her father and another just as determined not to see her succeed.

Follow the clues along with Zac, Clare and Luke, as you learn about the shipwrecks that crashed off the NSW South Coast and find a long-lost ship’s manifest, a lighthouse keeper’s journal and all the secrets within a lighthouse lost in time.

~*~

The Adamson Adventures is one of the series I started reading and reviewing for Elephant Tree Publishing, and this time around, I am not only the reviewer, but also the editor – more about that later.

Whilst camping, Clare, Luke and Zac stumble upon a ghost in the caves by the beach they are staying at whilst lost. She leads them to safety, but soon disappears – starting a mystery that takes the siblings to an old, crumbling lighthouse, and exploring the local history of the area where they are staying.

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As the mystery unfolds when they find the manifest and talk to a local historian, the siblings start to put the pieces of the puzzle together and find a way to solve the mystery. But will they get there before it’s too late?

What I really loved about this book is that it is a really good continuation from the first book, and mentions what happened, but doesn’t dwell on it and gets on with the story. It is fast-paced and keeps the reader’s attention beautifully. I loved seeing how Clare and her brothers have been evolving since the first book and learning new things about them with each story.

As the editor of this book, it was lovely and amazing to see how my suggestions worked for the book. It is a wonderful thing to see the results and how they helped – and I am very lucky to get to read the books I edit, as Elephant Tree Publishing sends me a copy. I have a few to read still, but am getting there and look forward to seeing where the Adamson siblings go next.

The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel

the unforgiving city.jpgTitle: The Unforgiving City

Author: Maggie Joel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 3rd September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 425

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Secrets and lies throw three lives into chaos in the last days of the nineteenth century.

Colonial Sydney in the final weeks of the nineteenth century: a city striving for union and nationhood but dogged by divisions so deep they threaten to derail, not just the Federation, but the colony itself. There are chasms opening too when a clandestine note reaches the wrong hands in the well-to-do household of aspiring politician Alasdair Dunlevy and his wife Eleanor. Below stairs, their maid Alice faces a desperate situation with her wayward sister.

Despite sharing a house, Eleanor, Alice and Alasdair are each alone in their torment and must each find some solution, but at what cost to themselves and those they love? Evocative, immediate and involving, this is the sweeping story of three people, their passions and ambitions, and the far-flung ripples their choices will cause.

~*~

Set in the final weeks and months of the nineteenth century and the Federation campaign, Australia is still a series of colonies, each run by its own government and without a common transport system. There are divisions amongst society, those that wish to Federate to unite the colonies, and those that wish to remain as colonies. Yet beyond the political issues of the suffragettes and Federation, there are secrets kept within one household in the colony. The Dunlevy household – headed up by Alasdair Dunlevy, is rocked by a note sent to his wife, Eleanor. Whilst Eleanor seeks to hide her secrets and uncover her husband’s, their maid, Alice, has her own secrets.

2019 BadgeShe’s trying to help her sister, Milli, who has debts to pay off, and is about to give birth. In her quest to save the child, the seemingly separate secrets they are trying to protect will inevitably collide – and the fates of these three people will remain unsure until the very last minute.

An historical fiction novel that is uniquely Australian, The Unforgiving City tells the story of the struggle to unite Australia as one country, and touching on more of the story than  people might know – the struggles and opposition, and how the suffragist movement was anti-Federation – unless women got the vote – which might explain or help explain how women (white women) got the vote so soon after Federation.

Though there were many people involved in, or affected by, Federation in various ways, this book closely explores the lives of three people in particular – Alasdair and Eleanor Dunlevy and their maid Alice. It touches on the issues that affect other classes, Indigenous people, and others within the colonies, and follows Alasdair as he journeys across New South Wales as he works to convince the towns to vote yes to Federate.

Eleanor and Alice drive the majority of the narrative with their secrets, and Alasdair’s secrets are woven in and out as they forge towards a Federated nation. This story revolves around the relationships of family, and of the rich and poor, and the chasms between the poorest of the poor and those who serve the rich, in a cut-throat world where laws prohibit women from making their own decisions, and where desperate people will do desperate things to keep their secrets and get help where they need it.

There’s not a lot of romance in this book, which allows the story to have a different slant and focus that make it more powerful for me, because it is about survival in a city where what are  now areas for the rich, were once the slums and dominion of the poor and those who have, according to the colonial society, fallen from grace. Maggie Joel cleverly writes each character as dealing with their secrets separately but at the same time, united in trying to keep these secrets that will  eventually collide with tragic yet somewhat hopeful results, even if these results are not what should have happened for the individual characters.

August Round Up 2019

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I managed to read sixteen books in August, and the break down is below for each challenge and collectively in lists and tables. Several were read for review purposes, some for quiz writing purposes and others for my own reading. Some reviews are only going live in September, but others are up and ready to be read.

#Dymocks52Challenge

To date, I have read 135 books, and am up to 66 for my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, and to date, have only one book bingo square to fill, with each post except the final one written and scheduled. I haven’t really added to my Popsugar Challenge this month but am still aiming to finish it by the end of the year.

I did add to my Jane Austen reading challenge with a Pride and Prejudice retelling by Fiona Palmer – I still have to add more reads to this challenge. As I am on top of all my review books at the moment, I might have time to read more for this challenge, even if I do not review each book, I read for it. I also took part in a blog tour with Corella Press – a cover reveal and an interview with illustrator, Kathleen Jennings. August also meant Love Your Bookshop Day, and my post about it is here.

In other book news, my new bookcase arrived, and my books are now sorted out nicely, and easy to find. Heading into September, I am busy with quiz writing and editing work, so it’s a good thing I have so many reviews already scheduled so I don’t have to worry about writing them.

Until next month!

Books 119-135

  1. The Battle for Perodia (The Last Firehawk #6) by Katrina Chapman
  2. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
  3. A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison
  4. The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep by Holly Webb
  5. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis
  6. Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M Martin
  7. The Truth About Stacey by Ann M Martin
  8. Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M Martin
  9. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus
  10. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel
  11. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer
  12. Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook by Judy Revenson
  13. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  14. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey
  15. The Loneliest Kitten by Holly Webb
  16. The Land of Long-Lost Friends by Alexander McCall-Smith
  17. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French

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Australian Women Writers Challenge

  1. Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  2. Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off by Delphine Davis – Reviewed
  3. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – Reviewed
  4. The Unforgiving City by Maggie Joel – Reviewed
  5. Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Reviewed
  6. Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson
  7. Kensy and Max: Out of Sight by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French – Reviewed

Book Bingo

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Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages:Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

A book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three: BINGO

Themes of Science Fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Themes of Culture:The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019 

Row Four: – BINGO

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Row Five: BINGO

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Row Six: BINGO

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

Row One:  – BINGO

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019

Book by an author with the same initials as you: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus – #AWW2019*

Themes of science fiction: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Row Two: BINGO

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday

Book set in the Australian outback: The Last Dingo Summer by Jackie French (Matilda Saga #8) – #AWW2019

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history: Fled by Meg Keneally – #AWW2019

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast:The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person:Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains:The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenRow Five: BINGO

Prize winning book: Somewhere Around the Corner by Jackie French – #AWW2019, Alexander Altmann A10567 by Suzy Zail – #AWW2019

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Emma

Persuasion

Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer – Pride and Prejudice retelling

 August Round Up – 16

 

Title Author Challenge
The Battle for Perodia Katrina Charman General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Rowan of Rin Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Pinch of Magic Michelle Harrison General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Puppy Who Couldn’t Sleep Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mermaid Holidays #3: The Bake Off Delphine Davis General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #aWW2019 -September release
Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Truth About Stacey Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Anne Saves the Day Ann M Martin General, #Dymocks52Challenge
While You Were Reading Ali Berg and Michelle Klaus General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
The Unforgiving City Maggie Joel General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Popsugar
Matters of the Heart Fiona Palmer General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Jane Austen Challenge
Harry Potter: Spells and Charms: A Movie Scrapbook Judy Revenson General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Mary Poppins She Wrote: The extraordinary life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

 

Valerie Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Kensy and Max: Out of Sight

 

Jacqueline Harvey General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
The Loneliest Kitten Holly Webb General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Land of Long Lost Friends

 

Alexander McCall-Smith General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lily and the Rose Jackie French General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 – reviewed in September.

The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French

the lily and the roseTitle: The Lily and the Rose

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 19th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Australian heiress Sophie Higgs was ‘a rose of no-man’s land’, founding hospitals across war-torn Europe during the horror that was WW1.

Now, in the 1920s, Sophie’s wartime work must be erased so that the men who returned can find some kind of ‘normality’.

Sophie is, however, a graduate of the mysterious Miss Lily’s school of charm and intrigue, and once more she risks her own life as she attempts to save others still trapped in the turmoil and aftermath of war.

But in this new world, nothing is clear, in politics or in love. For the role of men has changed too. Torn between the love of three very different men, Sophie will face her greatest danger yet as she attempts an impossible journey across the world to save Nigel, Earl of Shillings – and her beloved Miss Lily.

In this sequel to the bestselling Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies, Jackie French draws us further into a compelling story that celebrates the passion and adventure of an unstoppable army of women who changed the world.

~*~

World War One is over, and Europe is awash with revolutions and peace negotiations as those involved find a way to readjust to their everyday lives after the war. Following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Germany is awash with revolution as well, and Hannelore, and other royalty, are in hiding. As the years wear on, and the Treaty of Versailles is imposed upon Germany, further unrest unfolds. Sophie, still in Europe and setting up European branches of the Higgs empire, goes to search for Hannelore – hoping she’s alive, and unaware of what she will find. From there, upon hearing of Hannelore and Dolphie’s plans, she returns home to help the returned servicemen and those in her district gain employment, enter politics and settle into life running Thuringa and the rest of her industries. When bad news shakes her world, she rushes back to England and Miss Lily – and an uncertain future as the 1920s unfold.

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Sophie’s life has changed considerably since she first arrived at Shillings before World War One – known in the novels as the war, or the Great War. She has grown in many ways and has come to start using her position and knowledge to help people and help bring equal rights to the forefront. She has the support of those in her region, and new friends Giggs, Greenie and Midge Harrison (whom astute readers might recall from A Rose for the Anzac Boys, and their band of women who work the land and support the factories, working equally with their husbands. Yet others oppose her, or at least, question her and suggest she won’t succeed. In this series, women and untold stories are centred – as they are in many of Jackie’s books – the stories that are not heard based on race or class, or gender – or simply because they may not have been recorded or were hidden, and are only just coming to light through these stories and building on what we know.

Whilst some aspects that form the background to these stories are known, it is perhaps the intricacies, details and the humanity that might not be completely known. Which is why I love Jackie French and her books – she gets deep into the unknown, hidden or lost histories – and draws out the difficulties faced by those affected, and illustrates why people may have been attracted to a certain figures or done certain things, whilst at the same time, giving the sense of foreboding that we have to know what is coming. She does this simply but eloquently, building to something with subtle hints before letting it all out, and leaving a chapter or indeed the book on a cliffhanger.

Also, by telling it from two or three perspectives and seamlessly transitioning between each one, Jackie manages to tell a well-rounded story that capture elements of narrative that are unique and that draw the reader into the story. This is what Jackie French does with her writing – creates stories and characters whose intrigue and secrets drive the story as much as the plot does.

It is a new world, as ever changing as the world in The Matilda Saga, where the roles of men and women are changing, and where the world looks to be hurtling towards another war – the peace that everyone thinks has been brokered in 1919 looks to be fragile and hanging by a thread that could be sliced away at any time. It is these issues as well that Jackie French deals with accessibly whilst not shying away from the sinister and realistic side of things to create a story and characters that are always going to have flaws, and where there will always be those who go too far, or get taken advantage of.

Looking forward to reading the next book The Lily in the Snow.

Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Extraordinary Life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson

Mary poppins she wroteTitle: Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Extraordinary Life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

Author: Valerie Wilson

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 1st June 2010

Format: Paperback

Pages: 392

Price: $22.99

Synopsis: Discover the true story behind the creation of the world’s most beloved nanny, now appearing in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns.

Mary Poppins flew into the lives of the Banks family and secured her place in the hearts of generations of children. Published in 1934, the book was instantly hailed as a classic. By the time Julie Andrews graced the screen in Disney’s 1964 adaptation, Mary Poppins was a household name.

The quintessentially English nanny was conceived by an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, whose troubled childhood bore little resemblance to the cheery optimism that is associated with the beloved children’s tale.

Fiercely independent, Travers left Australia for London in 1924 to work as a journalist and found herself rubbing shoulders with literary elites such as W.B. Yeats and T.S. Elliot. Travers famously clashed with Walt Disney, reluctantly selling him her film rights, and then slamming the resulting movie as ‘all fantasy and no magic’.

Like her mysterious character, Travers remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six years. Valerie Lawson’s detailed biography provides the only glimpse into the mind of a writer who fervently believed that ‘Everyday life is a miracle’.

Valerie Lawson’s illuminating biography examines the extraordinary life of the woman behind one of our most treasured characters.

~*~

In 1934, the firstMary Poppins novel was published, written by Pamela Lyndon Travers, who went on to write another five in the series. In 1964, Disney finally won the battle to turn Mary Poppins into a movie – with obvious changes that Pamela objected to – as chronicled in the movie that was released several years ago, Saving Mr Banks –  a story that is only part of this book, and that in the movie is quite simplified from the complexities of Pamela’s life. From her early life in Maryborough and Allora, to her life in Sydney and Bowral later in childhood, and her travels across the world as an adult, seeking for something that she never really found, and the events that led her to write the Mary Poppins books.

P.L. Travers’ life was a complex one – and there are ma y things that many people might not know – like that she started her writing career with poetry in the UK, or that she felt she did not belong in Australia, despite being born there. Or that she suffered or seemed to suffer from a myriad of illnesses that often were not diagnosed.

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This biography posits Pamela as very independent, someone who saw two world wars and the Great Depression, Federation, suffrage in Australia, and many other key events. It gives great insight into what led to her writing Mary Poppins, even though Pamela claimed that Mary had just appeared one day – and she did not like to call herself a children’s writer, even though her books have always been enjoyed by and aimed at children.

The final chapter of the book covers the time Cameron Mackintosh spent negotiating live stage show rights with Disney – so he could connect the original stories with the movie and the books with a few additions that stayed true to the essence of Mary that Pamela insisted on for the movie, but never achieved. This takes place about fourteen years after Pamela died in 1996 – on the same day that Shakespeare was born and died – the 23rd of April.

I’ve read the firstMary Poppins book and seen both movies and the Saving Mr Banks movie – as well as the stage show. Each brings something unique to the character of Mary and her the other characters in the books and movies. Each is its own interpretation but at the same time, Pamela fought hard for certain things in the movie and lost on some grounds – but each still exists and we can enjoy the stage show, the movies and the books for what they are and at the same time. This book, in shedding some light on Travers, shows that everyone who has experienced the story in whichever format will experience it differently. One can also understand Pamela’s reluctance to allow Disney the rights to her stories and worried about what may happen. It would be another twenty-thirty years before the second book was optioned, with someone like Maggie Smith as Mary Poppins. Eventually this would become Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt, released last year, with a shift in time. It mirrored some events that were in other books that I am yet to read, and other characters – but still retained many of the aspects Pamela hated about the original.

Biographies of authors are interesting because we get to see where they came from, and what led them to writing the work or works they are most well-known for. For PL Travers, this is the only biography that we have exploring the life of this author, that goes beyond what everyone knows her for – she led a complex life and one that many people would not have realised she led, or what she had to deal with at a young age – a very insightful and interesting book.

Interview with Joy Rhoades – The Burnt Country

the burnt country

Hi, Joy and welcome to my blog, The Book Muse.

First of all, I loved The Burnt Country, and would like to go back and read The Woolgrower’s Companion, to see what happened before 1948.

 

In The Burnt Country, Kate is determined to keep running her farm. Where did you get your inspiration for Kate, and the characters who surround her?

 

I’m so glad you loved The Burnt Country ! Kate, my main character, is modelled on the country women I knew growing up in the bush: my grandmother, my Mum, and the wonderful ladies in whose homestead kitchens I’d sit with my siblings and a pile of kids, to be fed homemade ginger beer (the non alcoholic kind), scones straight from the oven or pikelets off the pan. Delicious.

 

Were there many people, like Kate, in the mid-twentieth century who defied the Aborigines Welfare Board to protect people they knew or worked with? Or was Kate an anomaly in a world and society that was racist and sexist, and didn’t like threats to what they knew?

 

It’s fair to say Kate was never the norm but it’s also true that her brand of activism was not unique. The remarkable academic Professor Victoria Haskins in her book, One Bright Spot,chronicles her great-grandmother’s attempts to help her Aboriginal ‘domestics’ employees against the worst excesses of the NSW Aboriginal Protection Board. She also worked alongside Indigenous activists in 1930s’ Sydney. It’s also the case that entire branches of the Country Women’s Association fought hard in their districts to improve the conditions of Aboriginal women, as Dr Jennifer Jones lays out in her book Country Women and the Colour Bar.

 

You touch on Prisoners of War through Luca, and the discrimination he faces post-war as well – this is a running theme throughout the novel and I think you executed it well, as I believe the readers will hopefully empathise more with these characters than others. Is this your intention, and what sort of responses do you think people will have?

 

I very much wanted to look at discrimination and Daisy, Kate, Luca: they each face different forms, but it’s all prejudice. So far, readers have responded strongly —positively— to The Burnt Country. If people, even for a moment, think differently, or consider their own even subconscious bias, that’s a big win for me as a writer.

 

 

I loved the focus on Kate beyond her relationship with men. I felt this made the novel and the story even more powerful within its setting, as she was allowed to be who she was as a farmer, not as someone falling in love, even though she is. Is this what you intended for readers to see and experience with Kate?

 

I’m so glad this appealed! It bugs me that popular culture still largely represents women as mono-faceted: we’re either wife material, or wives and mothers, defined always as an appendage to others. To men. But that’s not how I see myself or how women are. I wanted to show Kate as a real woman, yes, with a very human desire for love and companionship but also as a person with deep duties and responsibilities.

 

 

The setting you have created for Kate and the rest of the characters is a very distinct one, and you make readers feel like they are there on the dry land, in the bushfire and in the homesteads. How much fun did you have creating these images and feelings for both the characters, and the readers?

 

I write from home in London, a long, long way from Roma in western Queensland where I was born and grew up. At first, that gulf between me the land that I’m writing about, I saw as a loss and a writing disadvantage because I couldn’t just walk outside to check the shape of a leaf or the colour of a grass. But distance forces a kind of discipline too. I have to see the leaf clearly in my head, or smell the scent I want to describe. If it’s clear in my mind, then I hope it will be a vivid image too on the page and in readers’ imaginations.

My books are love letters to the Australian bush and its peoples. I miss Australia very strongly but I hope I don’t sentimentalise it either. A reader will see both the pink of a rainless sky and the pain of animals dying from drought.

How much of your family history and stories from the country did you draw on in your research?

 

The Burnt Country draws on family stories, mainly from my grandmother. She was a great teller of stories, sprung from such a long and varied life. A fifth generation grazier, she lived almost all of her 102 years on a sheep place in northern New South Wales. We would visit her when I was a kid, and she was always a great teller of stories. She loved family history too so that was an underlay to the carpet of her anecdotes. She was one of those remarkable country women, kind, incredibly hard working and with a surprisingly wicked sense of humour!

 

If you don’t mind sharing, did you have any favourite family stories that inspired your writing and the way you write about the land with such love?

 

My favourite story will always be one from my grandmother. But it’s not a grand story of her bravery or her resilience but a domestic one: her raising of wallaroos. If my cousins or the rouse-about on the place saw a dead wallaroo by the side of the road, they’d always check the pouch. Any live joey would be brought home to my grandmother and she’d try to save it  and then raise it. Each had a glamorous name like Matilda and Julia, and she loved them dearly. It was mutual. They’d follow her about the garden. She once brought a wallaroo with her when she came to visit us. We only realised when its ears popped up out of the bag she was carrying.

 

Research processes are something I enjoy reading about – for this novel, and your previous one, where did you start researching, and what are some of the most interesting sources you found in your journey?

What were some of the more challenging topics to research, and why?

 

Historians, other academics, veterinarians, sheep and fire experts: they were all essential to an authentic story and so enormously helpful. But the most challenging research was on Aboriginal historical aspects.

I found it disturbing and confronting to learn about really quite recent Australian history: the brutal policy and force of the NSW Aborigines Welfare Board (as it was known from 1940), about the domestic servitude of young —very young—Aboriginal girls. In addition,  for The Burnt Country I explored an aspect I knew littleabout: ‘exemption certificates.’ These certificates were granted by the relevant state Aborigines Board and relieved a person from the strict laws regulating all Aboriginal people. But the conditions could be draconian and often divided families.

I was very fortunate to get guidance from a distinguished academic, Dr Katherine Ellinghaus. Through Dr Ellinghaus, I was wonderfully able to meet Aunty Judi Wickes, an academic and an Aboriginal Elder, who has explored the terrible impact of exemption certificates in her own family’s history. Aunty Judi was enormously helpful in guiding me on the implications for the exempted person and their descendants.

I found it easy to read this not having read the previous book – but would you recommend people read them in order, or does it not matter?

 

I’d be thrilled for people to read both and if they can, in order, with The Woolgrower’s Companion first. But The Burnt Country (the second book) is standalone so can happily be read by itself.

 

Finally, are you planning further stories for Kate and her friends, or is there a new project on the horizon?

 

I have the beginnings of an outline, in note form, for another story set in and around the Longhope district. But that’s competing with another novel where the outline is further along and quite detailed. So we’ll see which one grabs me to be written first!

 

Thank you for joining me here, I always enjoy reading books by Australian women exploring a diverse range of topics and stories.

 

 

My pleasure! Thanks so much for having me along.

The Burnt Country by Joy Rhoades

the burnt country.jpgTitle: The Burnt Country

Author: Joy Rhoades

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Bantam

Published: 6th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: The stunning new novel from the author of The Woolgrower’s Companion, whom the Australian Women’s Weekly described as ‘a wonderful new voice in literary rural fiction’.
A scandalous secret. A deadly fire. An agonizing choice.

Australia 1948. As a young woman running Amiens, a sizeable sheep station in New South Wales, Kate Dowd knows she’s expected to fail. And her grazier neighbour is doing his best to ensure she does, attacking her method of burning off to repel a bushfire.

But fire risk is just one of her problems. Kate cannot lose Amiens or give in to her estranged husband Jack’s demands to sell: the farm is her livelihood and the only protection she can offer her half-sister Pearl, as the Aborigines Welfare Board threatens to take her away.

Ostracised by the local community for even acknowledging Pearl, Kate cannot risk another scandal. Which means turning her back on her wartime lover, Luca Canali …

Then Jack drops a bombshell. He wants a divorce. He’ll protect what’s left of Kate’s reputation, and keep Luca out of it – but for an extortionate price.

Soon Kate is putting out fires on all fronts to save her farm, keep her family together and protect the man she loves. Then a catastrophic real fire threatens everything . . .

~*~

Set on a farm in country NSW, The Burnt Country is unique amongst rural fiction I have read. It’s 1948, and World War Two has been over for three years. Kate Dowd has been running the sheep station Amiens alone since her father died and her husband, Jack, left her. Left to support herself, her half-sister, Pearl, Pearl’s mother Daisy, and another relative, Harry, Kate is faced with decisions about selling and rumours floating around town about her family.

Yet it is a time of drought as well, and whilst the fires of what people want from her and expect from her start to flicker around her, a very real fire threatens her home and community, and leads to investigations and events that could change Kate, her community, family and Amiens forever.

Her wartime lover, Luca, and ex, Jack return at about the same time. Yet this storyline does not take over, rather, the romance bubbles beneath the main storyline of family and home, and what it takes to protect what you hold close. Throughout the novel, the dark spectre of Jack looms as he comes in and out of Kate’s life with threats, demands and conditions to go along with a divorce he demands. He knows Kate cannot pay the price he demands, and Kate and her friends use their knowledge and skills to uncover what Jack is after – so there is a bit of a mystery in this book to go along with bubbling romances – two, it turns out, and one of which I felt was a lot more prominent between another couple, and it was one I quite enjoyed,

2019 BadgeDetermined to help her family, and stand up for herself, Kate does what she can to get them through a bushfire that sweeps across the region. I was swept up in this book, because it allowed Kate to be a woman of her time, but at the same time, she stood up for what she believed in, and what was right. She did not let what many people saw as normal and right dictate what she should do, and she showed compassion and strength in the face of accusations that at one point, she feels she cannot defend herself against.

Kate faces blatant sexism and disrespect as she does things her way, from her burning off method, to hiding Daisy and Pearl from the Aborigines Welfare Board – determined that they won’t be separated and determined to make the necessary sacrifices to save her family and her farm. It is a story about a woman who finds herself in circumstances she never foresaw, much more than a romance. It is a very human story, with circumstances and a setting very real to many Australians, as the threat of drought and bushfire linger all the time in rural communities. This aspect was my favourite, because I believe it really allowed Kate to shine and grow as she stood up to those who doubted her who blamed her for things beyond her control and knowledge. It showed that those who are loyal to you in times of trouble are important and true family will always find a way to come back together.

Populated with a diverse group of characters from several backgrounds and attitudes, like many books, The Burnt Country is a snapshot of a community, illustrating a variety of views that we see as abominable today, yet would have been accepted in the post-war years.  Including these is undeniably uncomfortable, but at the same time, we shouldn’t shy away from a very real reality that many faced in the mid-twentieth century in those conditions. It is a great novel, because Kate does not allow what society expects dictate what she does, and she is a wonderful character, and her story is powerful. It is always good to see women in fiction front and centre beyond romance, perhaps with romance bubbling on the side or in the background. Seeing them in other positions and plots shows there are many more aspects to these characters than might be present in some places.