With Love from Miss Lily by Jackie French

with love from miss lily.jpgTitle: With Love from Miss Lily

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 20th November 2017

Format: eBook

Pages: 100

Price: Free download from publisher website

Synopsis: From the author of Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies comes a moving and heart-warming story that is perfect for Christmas – and beyond.

December1918

This first peacetime Christmas should be perfect.

But this is a ceasefire, not peace. Influenza ravages Europe and the hospital supplies. Sophie ordered six months ago have not arrived from Australia.

And the old woman in Ward 3 will not stop knitting.

Yet even in war-torn Europe, Christmas miracles are possible, as a stranger reveals the extraordinary story of how thousands of female resistance workers sent coded messages, including the most important message a woman can send.

And somehow Christmas does arrive, the perfect Christmas, with love from Miss Lily.

~*~

As a fan of the Miss Lily series, it has taken me a while to get around to reading the Christmas eBooks – partly because with much of my time spent as a quiz writer writing and reading on a screen, I enjoy a good break with a nice paperback. However, these are short, and can be read in a sitting, so I am aiming to read them all and review them here on my blog as they give much more to the Miss Lily series than  we read on the pages in the longer books, the third of which I am currently reading, set in the years leading up to Hitler’s grab for power, and I predict, a few books that will delve into the tumultuous 1930s and World War Two – the war that Sophie and her friends are hoping to avoid.

In the first Miss Lily Christmas story, which I will also be trying to read again during December with the rest of my Christmas reads, Sophie is running an influenza hospital at the end of the Great War. As she nurses an elderly woman through the last days of her life, Sophie is asked to pass on a message – and some knitting. An English intelligence officer recognises what the knitting means – and reveals the chain of European spies – La Dame Blanche – who knitted codes into their knitting across Europe during the war, to help defeat Germany.

2019 BadgeI was able to read this in one sitting, as it was short, and it provides a good link between the novels. The time jumps with each book work very well, and pick up just where they need to. What this Christmas story does is show the calm after the war, and the hope that leads into the next twenty years – all whilst ripples of unease filter through. It also shows the hope that the end of the war, and Christmas brings to those still waiting to get home, and the magic of Miss Lily’s kindness through what she sends to the hospital to see them through Christmas.

Miss Lily may not be physically present in this short story, but her spirit is, and her love for her ‘lovely ladies’ like Sophie is. Europe has been ripped apart by war, but the first Christmas of peace – The Christmas after the armistice – holds hope as a special delivery arrives in the snow. As a fan of Miss Lily, Jackie French, and Christmas, I adored this book and am looking forward to reading the other Christmas stories to see what they add to the series.

September 2019 Round Up

Readings and Musings on all things books, Aussie authors and everything in between

 

This month, I reached my overall reading goal of 150 books with Whisper by Lynette Noni. Overall, I have reached 71 books in my Australian Women Writer’s challenge, and am nearing the end of my PopSugar Challenge, with only a few categories left. I also filled out my Book Bingo card for the year, with my final wrap up post to be written after my final post for that goes live.

#Dymocks52Challenge

Here is a breakdown of what I read.

September Round-Up – 15    

Book Author Challenge
The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle Kate Forsyth General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
A Lighthouse in Time Sandra Bennett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
New Coach Tim Cahill General, #Dymocks52Challenge
488 Rules for Life Kitty Flanagan General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Silver Chris Hammer General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Beauty, Beast and Belladonna

 

Maia Chance General, #Dymocks52Challenge
There Was Still Love

 

Favel Parrett General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Rebel Women who Changed Australia

 

Susanna de Vries General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo
Binder of Doom: Boa Constructor Troy Cummings General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Deathless Girls Kiran Millwood Hargrave General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth Philip Pullman General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Book Bingo
The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch Tom Fletcher General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon Tracey West General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Mitford Scandal Jessica Fellowes General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Whisper

 

Lynette Noni General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,

2019 Badge

  1. The Impossible Quest #1: Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth
  2. A Lighthouse in Time by Sandra Bennett
  3. Tiny Timmy: The New Coach by Tim Cahill
  4. 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
  5. Boa Constructor (Binder of Doom) by Troy Cummings
  6. Silver by Chris Hammer
  7. Beauty, Beast and Belladonna by Maia Chance
  8. There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
  9. Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries
  10. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  11. The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
  12. The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch by Tom Fletcher
  13. Dragon Masters: The Land of the Spring Dragon by Tracey West
  14. The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes
  15. Whisper by Lynette Noni

 

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Book Bingo

 

Rows Across:

 

Row One: BINGO

 

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: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

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: BINGO

 

Novel that has 500 pages or more: Rebel Women who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

 – #AWW2019, The Book of Dust Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

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 Austen

 

Row 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

 

 

Of these, due to work obligations, not as many were Australian Women as I would have liked but will aim to get more read in the coming months. Other challenges will hopefully be filled in then as well so I can add those lists in towards the end of the year and in my final wrap up posts for each challenge.

 

Until next month!

Whisper by Lynette Noni

Whisper3D_withSticker.pngTitle: Whisper

Author: Lynette Noni

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: 1st May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: 2018 Must-Read Novel – ABIA Winner of Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year 2019

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me. “It’s for people just like you.”

 I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different.

I’m an anomaly.

I’m a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes… Subject Six-Eight-Four, ‘Jane Doe’, has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

Life at Lengard follows a strict, torturous routine that has never changed.

Until now.

When Jane is assigned a new—and unexpectedly kind—evaluator, her resolve begins to crack, despite her best efforts.

As she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, Jane discovers that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot …. And one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

Bestselling Australian author Lynette Noni is known for crafting compelling stories that appeal to devoted fantasy fans and general-interest readers alike. Stepping away from the much loved Medoran ChroniclesWHISPER is an unforgettable series full of suspense that explores the power of words and the importance of finding your voice.

~*~

Imagine a world where if you Speak with intent, you can make things happen with your words. You can create an animal, stop a bullet or harm someone. Would you speak?

This is Jane’s reality – and for over two years, she has refused to speak, stuck in a secret facility below Sydney called Lengard, as her evaluators – especially Ward – encourage her to speak. They want to find out if their theory about her is correct and initiate her into the program. As she breaks, and begins to talk, she becomes friends with Cami, Sneak and Ward and several others. Yet at the heart of Lengard is a dark secret, and soon, it becomes clear that the things Jane has been told might not quite be true as rebellion begins to bubble beneath the surface of what she knows, and what her new friends know.

Jane soon finds out why she is wanted at Lengard – and the discovery of a sinister plot, as she uncovers many truths, will set in motion a flurry of activity that will change the world forever, and where a single word can change everything – and maybe not for the better, either.

Whisper has been on my shelf for about a year – and I have only just managed to get to it after the publisher asked me to participate in an upcoming blog tour for the sequel, so I decided to read it now, so I could do this. I devoured it within a weekend and loved the way it used a similar start and ending, with just a few tweaks to tie in – this was amazingly clever and suited the book perfectly. For the first several chapters, the only dialogue comes from Ward, Cami, Falon, Manning, Vanik and several other characters, who either befriend Jane and help her Speak, or who have an ulterior motive and want more from her than just a few words, and this sinister aspect is woven eloquently throughout, building to something much bigger than what I, as a reader, initially thought. It is these shocks that make it such a good book, especially when the people you trust, you should doubt, and the people you doubt, you should trust.

As Jane, known as JD, Chip, and Jane to her friends, begins to feel confident in her abilities, she also uncovers several truths, slowly revealed in a way that keeps the reader’s attention until the end. It’s powerful because in a way, it is exploring ideas of consent, and having your own power, and your own voice to speak out and speak up when you need to. To be who you are, and also, in a world where the different people are shut away, ideas of trust and faith in humanity and knowing where you stand. It also sets up a mystery that I hope reaches a conclusion in the next book, because there are so many unanswered questions that need an answer. I’m looking forward to reading the next book and participating in the blog tour for Pantera Press in November. Lynette Noni knows how to tell a great story for her readers, and continues to do so.

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

there was still loveTitle: There Was Still Love

Author: Favel Parrett

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 24th September 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 215

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The profoundly moving new novel from the critically acclaimed and Miles Franklin shortlisted author of PAST THE SHALLOWS and WHEN THE NIGHT COMES. A tender and masterfully told story of memory, family and love.

Prague, 1938: Eva flies down the street from her sister. Suddenly a man steps out, a man wearing a hat. Eva runs into him, hits the pavement hard. His hat is in the gutter. His anger slaps Eva, but his hate will change everything, as war forces so many lives into small, brown suitcases.

Prague, 1980: No one sees Ludek. A young boy can slip right under the heavy blanket that covers this city – the fear cannot touch him. Ludek is free. And he sees everything. The world can do what it likes. The world can go to hell for all he cares because Babi is waiting for him in the warm flat. His whole world.

Melbourne, 1980: Mala Li ka’s grandma holds her hand as they climb the stairs to their third floor flat. Inside, the smell of warm pipe tobacco and homemade cakes. Here, Mana and Bill have made a life for themselves and their granddaughter. A life imbued with the spirit of Prague and the loved ones left behind.

Favel Parrett’s deep emotional insight and stellar literary talent shine through in this love letter to the strong women who bind families together, despite dislocation and distance. It is a tender and beautifully told story of memory, family and love. Because there is still love. No matter what.

~*~

Most novels that deal with World War Two and its aftermath are often focused on the Holocaust, and in Australia, Changi, and the camps that imprisoned any Australians – civilian and military in places like Singapore during the 1940s. Very rarely have I read one set in the Communist era that goes between Communist Prague in 1980 and Melbourne in the same year, telling the story of the same family, and their vastly different experiences in each place – linked by grandmothers who were sisters, and photographs of each other, and the untold stories of how the branches of the family were separated in the months leading up to World War Two in 1948.

In Prague, Ludek lives with his Babi, and his grandfather. His mother is travelling the world in a ballet company, and occasionally writes to him, but cannot visit because of the strict rules dictating circumstances should she return to Prague. Ludek has only known Prague, but whenever his great-uncle and aunt visit, he gets gifts from Australia, and an unknown cousin who lives with her grandparents.

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Mala Lika lives in Melbourne, she lives an Australian life of freedom, away from Communism, but with the scars of war-torn Europe and a family torn asunder by war and post-war Communism and its impacts. The family is united because they are Czech, and because they do not speak of their experiences to the children – so the understanding of how the war years affected their family is filtered through the eyes of the children, and their experiences and understanding of language as well as the questions they ask. But the language of love crosses generations, language barriers and cultural barriers, and is the driving force behind this novel.

The familial love throughout this novel is what makes it more powerful and also what drives it forward. It is realistic – not everyone meets and nor are they always reunited – but they all love each other and are all linked together as a family. Eva and her sister are, alongside Ludek and Mala Lika, the driving forces and central characters of the novel, as their history and relationship is slowly revealed, leading up to what separated them and kept them apart for the rest of their lives.

 

Using first and third person for different characters, splitting each section up for each character makes this easy to follow, and also fits with the characters, their lives and what they observe. Sometimes mixing first and third person doesn’t work, but in this case it does, as does having different narrators.

Reading about how post-war politics affected families was interesting and gave new insight into what happened – the war didn’t just end. There were consequences for all, and not everyone was able to be reunited with their families. They might have been apart forever, but they would always have love.

Thus was an insightful, short and succinct story that allowed the characters to be true to who they were, within what they knew without another entity questioning it. Shown through the eyes of two child narrators for the majority of the book, apart from the flashbacks, it is accessible to all and each reader will have a different understanding, depending on how old they are and when they read it, as well as their own experiences. A nicely written book that reflects family life for what it can be.

Rebel Women Who Changed Australia by Susanna de Vries

rebel women who shaped australiaTitle: Rebel Women Who Changed Australia

Author: Susanna de Vries

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Harper Collins Australia

Published: 15th April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 592

Price: 34.99

Synopsis: Celebrate the women who changed our nation. From Lillie Goodisson, pioneer of family planning, to Eileen Joyce, world-famous pianist, Enid Lyons, our first female cabinet minister, Stella Miles Franklin, who endowed our most celebrated literary prize, and Dr Catherine Hamlin, whose fistula hospitals in Africa have given hope to thousands, Australian women have made a difference to our own country and the world.

While the history of Australia is rich with the accounts of the deeds of men, women’s contributions have often been overlooked. This updated and condensed edition of Susanna de Vries Complete Book of Great Australian Women remedies that and celebrates, for a new generation, women who broke the mould, crashed through ceilings, and shaped the nation in the fields of medicine, law, the arts and politics.

These are women who helped to forge the Australia we know today.

Dr Agnes Bennett – Dr Dagmar Berne – Nancy Bird Walton – Edith Cowan – Fanny Durack – Stella Miles Franklin – Mary Gilmore – Sister Lillie Goodisson – Dr Catherine Hamlin – Eileen Joyce – Annette Kellerman – Sister Elizabeth Kenny – Kundaibark – Louisa Lawson – Joice Nankivell Loch – Enid Burnell Lyons – Mary McConnel – Nellie Melba – Roma Mitchell – Oodgeroo Noonuccal – Sister Lucy Osburn – Margaret Rose Preston – Henry Handel Richardson – Joan Rosanove – Rose Scott – Ella Simon – Dr Constance Stone – Florence Mary Taylor – Kylie Tennant

~*~

Rebel Women Who Changed Australia brings to life many stories that have been hidden for a long time – and some that might not have been wholly known, mixed in with the few whose names are often known. Of the women in this book, I probably had heard of and knew something about at least eight, whilst the rest I may have only heard in passing or never heard at all in my history lessons – something that I think can effectively be included without denying other important events and figures their place in history. They all matter, why shouldn’t we teach them all?

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Books like this allow hidden history to be revealed, and it covers white women, Indigenous women, rich women, and poor women. Women whose families had different ideas about what they should do, and women whose families supported them and helped them. These women all made different sacrifices or changes in their lives, and never let anyone else define them.

They each had a different journey, and passion but what unites them is their stories have often been hidden, forgotten or even framed alongside those of men, as many of the women in the medical field were. They fought to have their voices heard, and eventually did. Sometimes, they may have received credit in their day, and other times, it may have been assigned to a man in their field or lives – and only later did they get equal billing.

But now, we are hearing these stories and it makes history richer – and interesting as well. It allows women who achieved things in times when they were expected to do not much more than marry and have kids within society to be showcased, and gives girls heroes to look up to who aren’t passive princesses (although, in some fairy tales, the girls do hold their own. One just needs to read the originals instead of the sanitised, watered down versions).

What I’m enjoying about books like this is it shows women as more than what history books represent them as at times, and identify who they are and what they did, what made them exceptional for their time. It allows for readers of all ages to see what women could do, not only what they were expected to do, proving that these unstoppable rebel women refused to let anything, and anyone stop them reaching their goals. They pushed through barriers as much as possible, and at times, worked in their field until they were physically unable to, but by that time, they had made their mark and will forever be remembered for their remarkable achievements in the face of various barriers and attempts at resistance. A book that would effectively complement any Australian history course, and many women overlap, and indeed knew each other, and seeing these connections made it interesting as well.

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.