Pre-Release Review: Beneath the Mother Tree by D.M. Cameron

Beneath_the_Mother_Tree_cover-195x300Title: Beneath the Mother Tree

Author: D.M. Cameron

Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 336

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A spine-chilling mystery and contemporary love story, Beneath the Mother Tree plays out in a unique and wild Australian setting, interweaving Indigenous history and Irish mythology.

On a small island, something sinister is at play. Resident alcoholic Grappa believes it’s the Far Dorocha, dark servant of the Faery queen, whose seductive music lures you into their abyss. His granddaughter Ayla has other ideas, especially once she meets the mysterious flute player she heard on the beach.

Riley and his mother have moved to the island to escape their grief. But when the tight-knit community is beset by a series of strange deaths, the enigmatic newcomers quickly garner the ire of the locals. Can Ayla uncover the mystery at the heart of the island’s darkness before it is too late?

Wrought with sensuousness and lyricism, D.M. Cameron’s debut novel Beneath the Mother Tree is a thrilling journey, rhythmically fierce and eagerly awaited.

 

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I received permission from the publisher to post this review before publication date to generate interest and buzz for the debut author.

The novel opens with Ayla hearing a tune played on a flute as she swims at the edge of her wild island home, where Indigenous history and Irish mythology are interwoven, and there is an understanding in the community of what happened in the past, and respect from all characters towards each other and this past. Ayla has spent her whole life on this island – and its history – Indigenous and white, and the tales of Far Dorocha and other Irish myths that she has been told by her Grappa, have informed her and created her identity.

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Riley and his mother have just moved to the island following the death of his stepfather, and instantly, Ayla’s grandfather senses that something sinister is at play when the mysterious deaths begin – and he tries to ban Ayla from seeing Riley. But as the story ebbs and flows between the viewpoints of Ayla and Riley, and at times, Riley’s mother, Marlise, the mystery that is gripping the island deepens, and it is up to Ayla and Riley, with the help of advice from friends, Riley’s stepfather’s books and the history of the island that Ayla has grown up with, they begin to look into the mysterious deaths that have occurred since Marlise arrived, and hopefully, solve the mystery that has almost destroyed the island and those that live there.

What I liked about this novel was the care that D.M. Cameron took with her research into Irish mythology and the research into the Indigenous history of the Quandamooka people and the islands near Stradbroke and Moreton Bay, and has ensured that she gave the utmost respect to these stories. This made the story richer and gave a better experience with the facts of Indigenous history, and the stories and experiences of Ayla’s friend, Mandy woven throughout.

The islanders are bonded by history and mythology, and by a tragedy that claimed the lives of two fishermen many years ago. Things are peaceful, and tranquil, as though the characters have reached an understanding of the past and what is to come, until Riley and his mother arrive. It is their presence that beings to haunt the island – and bring a feeling of unease to the novel as the reader wonders just what their motive for being there is. I found Marlise to be a suffocating character, and I suppose she was, when I think about the way she tried to control Riley. Ayla, Riley and Mandy were breaths of fresh air, and definitely my favourite characters.

Intertwined with the Indigenous history that the author carefully leant about from members of the Quandamooka community, and included sensitively, and I felt in a way that didn’t shy away from the horrors history sometimes does, and Irish mythology of the Fae, is the mystery of the deaths that Grappa says are caused by Far Dorocha, whom he thinks Riley is when he sees one of the flutes that Riley has made. I felt a sense of relief when Ayla managed to bring her Grappa around and like Riley and help him to not only uncover the mystery of what was happening on the island, but the mystery of his father, and what really happened to him. The combination of myth, history and mystery creates an atmospheric novel with a well-paced structure that climaxes effectively towards the end, and brings together the strands of history, mystery, and myth in an effective and emotive way that has the power to unite people.

I enjoyed this novel, gobbling most of it up over an afternoon yesterday. D.M. Cameron is an evocative new voice in Australian literature, and I hope she writes more novels that weave history and mythology throughout as I enjoy that sort of book.

Booktopia

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

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Title: The Stolen Child

Author: Lisa Carey

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 10 January 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 325

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: On an island where dreams can come true, be careful what you wish for

St Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed – by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

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The Stolen Child opens almost where it ends, though this finale is still shrouded in a fog of mystery that slowly unravels as the novel proceeds. Twin sisters Rose and Emer have spent their lives on the island, Rose quite happy with her brood of twin girls and husband, Emer longing to get off, and holding her only son, Niall, close to her. The arrival of a stranger brings a series of events and tragedies to the island. Gradually, these events lead to something devastating, and slowly drive wedges between friends and family who were once all close, connected by the island, blood and friendship, and the bonds they share become frayed, by whom though, nobody can agree.

The stranger, Brigid, is at first shunned and gossiped about by the women, her connection to the island and her presence questioned. As time goes on, barriers break down, Brigid’s story is revealed through flashbacks, and she comes close with Emer, and her son Niall, slowly chipping away at the walls Emer has built around her due to fear. Emer though, still holds onto old traditions and superstitions about fairies, “the good people”, and curses, and magic, despite the weekly visits to Mass made by the island. When she is trapped on the island with her brother in law during a dark storm that traverses three days, one event sets the wheels in motion for tragedy. The dangers that they will have to face, and the realities of Brigid and her presence, soon impact the lives of everyone who lives there.

A captivating yet eerie story, with a touch of gothic literary characteristics mixed in with old Irish traditions and a struggle against what is known and the unknown of the modern world, The Stolen Child evokes the fear of loss – loss of love, of family, of friendship and of self. It evokes the creation and breaking down of relationships and has characters that question the conventions and expectations that surround them. The relationships in this novel are mainly between women: there are male characters, though other than Niall, they are secondary to the women, and what they feel for each other. The various relationships between Rose, Emer, Brigid and Rose and Emer’s mother, are the ones that dominate the novel, the ones that give it the power and emotion for the reader. Brigid and Emer’s relationship builds out of distrust into a sort of respect, where Brigid slowly coaxes Emer from her shell, and into friendship, with the possibility of something more.

What I liked most about this novel was that I didn’t know what was coming with each chapter. It allows for the characters to grow and be complex, whilst still allowing the essence of who they all are to shine through. It has a mystery within that requires being read to the final page to be solved, and yet still has an air of wonder once the final page has been turned.

A moving and tender read, where the sea and the island are as much characters as the human characters, the givers and takers of life that these island women live by, It evokes emotion, and weaves a tale that illustrates the realities of prejudice, isolation and fear, and how these can change at the drop of a hat at times.