Matters of the Heart by Fiona Palmer

matters of the heart.jpgTitle: Matters of the Heart

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction/Jane Austen retelling

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 27th August 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A classic love story about manners, men and modern romance retold by bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer

Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother’s focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.

When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy’s sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie’s best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.

Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?

Australia’s bestselling storyteller Fiona Palmer reimagines Jane Austen’s beloved classic tale of manners and marriage, transporting an enduring love story in this very twenty-first century novel about family, female empowerment and matters of the heart.

~*~

Over the years, many myths, fairy tales and classic works have been retold in many ways in books, for the stage, and for the screen. Jane Austen is no exception, and perhaps one of the stories that has been retold the most is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.Most retellings or adaptations of Pride and Prejudicetake place during the Regency period, but every so often, something new comes along, whether that is the time period or the country or culture the story is set in. Pride and Prejudice is one of those stories where you can take the general idea and characters, and it will translate extremely well into a myriad of settings with the necessary tweaks.

2019 BadgeMatters of the Heart is one such retelling, and it is set in Australia in 2019. In Coodardy, Western Australia, Longbourn is a struggling farm. Lizzy Bennet returns home from an early morning walk with her dog, Pippa, to hear the gossip about Charlie Bingley, who has bought the neighbouring farm, Netherfield. Lizzy’s mother, Margaret, is determined to meet Charlie, a very eligible bachelor that Kitty and Lydia know more about than Lizzy as a match for Jane. From here, Matters of the Heartfollows the basic premise of Pride and Prejudice, where the romance is a result of the arguing over manners and expectations.

Mrs Bennet – Margaret – still wants her daughters, especially Jane and Lizzy – to make a good match in this one, yet she is also a woman who has a complex role as well, who encourages her daughters’ passions, but much like the Bennet matriarch of the original, is overly concerned about money and how people see her, and unfortunately, as in the original, the way Mrs Bennet acts and speaks starts to  impact how the Bingleys and Will Darcy start to see and understand Jane and Lizzy as being just like their mother, whilst Lizzy judges Will because he is reserved and seemingly cold – until she sees him come to life on the farm and hears him talk about his sister.

Not only did this retelling and the original have a touch of romance in it, but the main premise is the idea of manners and what happens when we prejudge people based on minimal interaction or gossip. Also, many of the events are similar, just with a twenty-first century flavour, and a uniquely Australian flavour that makes it exciting and enjoyable to read. It also deals with modern ideas of the roles of men and women in a country town, and preconceived  notions of who makes a good farmer or not, and all the surprises along the way that make the story ebb and flow to the pattern and timeline of the original Pride and Prejudice. Placed in the twenty-first century, the climax happens quite differently, and is effectively done so that it works within the original base narrative and the new setting.

Like Jane Austen’s original characters, these ones are flawed and complex, and not entirely perfect, though some seem to think they are. Lizzy and Jane are my favourites, because they are true to their modern selves, but also their origins from the 1800s. As the main focus of the novel, they get the most attention with sisters Mary, Kitty and Lydia popping in and out as they are needed in the story. It has a bit of everything – humour, romance and most importantly, the strength of women and their ability to stand on their own two feet, even in the face of people thinking they are unable to do certain things – old prejudices that in some areas have not gone away.

Overall, this was a very interesting take on an older story, and one that I would recommend it to fans of Fiona Palmer, and fans of Jane Austen.

Check in #5: Australian Women #60 to #78

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn what is likely my final Check in for 2018 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m making my list a little longer as it did not make sense to make another post for one or two books, given I did this in blocks of fifteen – and am debating whether to do monthly, or blocks of ten for next year to increase my content output. Most books are already out, but the seventy-sixth book is only out in January, and based on challenge rules and discussions with a fellow participant, counts in both years – as the review goes up in 2019. This is one of my wrap up posts for the year – still to come, my overall challenge, my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, my overall reading log and number books read over the past twelve months, and my wrap up post for book bingo, which in theory, should include the intro for next year and that means I need to pick a book to read for the first square I’ll be marking off on the fifth of January, 2019 for book bingo with Theresa and Amanda.

My past check-ins have each had fifteen books – but given how close to the end of the year we are, I did the final seventeen in one post. Over the year, I have read a wide variety of books by Australian Women, but mainly Young Adult, Fantasy, Kids, and Historical Fiction or Crime. Of these books, Graevale, We Three Heroes, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls have been amongst my favourites, for various reasons.

Graevaleis the fourth book in the Medoran Chronicles and sees Alex and her friends trying to prevent their visions of the future coming true, now that Aven Dalmarta sits on the Meyarin throne. He is a threat to all Medora, and Alex must find a way to unite all the kingdoms and species. Despite resistance, for the most part, she succeeds. Until it comes to Graevale and the Shadow Walkers – whose indifference to the message she has been delivering around Medora will lead to a series of catastrophic events with devastating consequences.

In the same series, is We Three Heroes – a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of D.C., Bear and Jordan across the series, based around key events that affected them as well as Alex. Chronicling their lives before, and after they met Alex and became the group of friends we love, as they navigate Akarnae and the ups and downs of life as their world heads into a war that they may not be able to win.

Taking quite a different turn, is Lenny’s Book of Everything.  A story about a family, a brother and sister whose lives revolve around building an encyclopedia letter by letter, and a rare genetic disease that makes Lenny’s brother Davey keep growing. With a bittersweet storyline told through Lenny’s eyes about these years and her search for her father and his family, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal amounts and stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Finally, for everyone who always wanted to be the princess but be more than the girl waiting to be rescued – the girl who can take care of herself and where sometimes, the prince changes his fate for her, we have Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls. Filled with four fairy tales where the girl traditionally must wait for the male to come, these tales show Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood taking charge of their own fate, as inventors and activists, adventurers and scientists within a fairy tale word frame. A wonderful addition to a growing fairy tale collection of traditional and reimagined ones.

The Final Seventeen:

My stats and final comments will appear in my wrap up post in the coming days – but to finish off the year, I am looking forward heading into the 2019 challenge as the YA editor for the AWW blog as well as everything else. This has been a great challenge and I have had some excellent crossover with other challenges, that I hope to continue into next year.

Booktopia

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

sisters and brothers.jpgTitle: Sisters and Brothers

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 372

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets

Emma
, a nurse and busy mother of three, has always dreamed of having a sister.
Michelle, at 46, wonders if it’s too late to fall in love and find her birth parents.
Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses.
Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife.
Adam can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.
These five very different people are all connected but separated by secrets from the past. Sisters and Brothers will both break and warm your heart in a way that only bestselling Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer can.

‘Her books are tear-jerkers and page-turners’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘Fiona Palmer just keeps getting better’ RACHAEL JOHNS

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSisters and Brothers  by Fiona Palmer explores the intricacies and complexities of family, and what happens when a family grows unexpectedly and has to face a crisis together. Bill, aged seventy-two, has recently lost his wife, and isn’t well – so it falls to his daughter, Sarah, to look after him. Just before his surgery and hospital stay, he discovers another daughter, Emma. At first, Sarah resists her new sister, Emma, yet at the same time, finds comfort in her, and confides in her, allowing her to become part of the family. At the same time, Adam, whose success as a florist and with his new life is taking off, starts to look for his father, and discovers a whole new family along the way.

As Emma, Sarah and Adam find their way to each other, Michelle, who has always wondered about her birth parents, begins to look for them, yet for her, finding a way to be happy is more important as she ventures into new territory with her cake-making business.

The love story in this novel primarily centres around family and the different ways love manifests with siblings, spouses, friends and children, mothers and fathers and everything in between. It explores family dynamics and what it means to find siblings as an adult, and how this can affect you and everyone involved. It is a powerful novel about family love, and the changes that sometimes come later in life to us and our families, and how we deal with them.

With each new revelation, Sarah begins to accept the larger family she had always wanted as a child but never had. When Emma finds out after her father’s accident that Bill is her father, the initial shock wears off after she meets Bill, and eventually Sarah – with whom a bond soon forms, and she helps Sarah with the stresses in her life and overcoming them. Two sisters, who never knew each other, are soon caring for each other, each other’s families and Bill as they each gain something, rather than lose something in the wake of tragedy.

Adam’s discovery of his father and sisters brings a new dynamic – with his partner, they are looking to grow their family with a child, but never expected siblings, nieces, nephews, and the father Adam never knew plus more, whilst Michelle seeks answers to her adoption, keen to find her birth mother and perhaps someone to love.

What I enjoyed about this novel was that it focussed on familial love and friendship in all its variations and inserted a few romantic subplots that evolved from the family-oriented plot line. It is always refreshing to read these kinds of books that acknowledge more than just romantic relationships and place family and friends at the forefront of the plot line. By exploring these relationships, and issues such as adoption, single parenthood and familial conflict, Fiona Palmer has created a story that will hopefully resonate with many people.

Another lovely, moving and poignant offering from Fiona Palmer, published by Hachette Australia.

The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier *Debut novel*

oceans edgeTitle: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge

Author: Kali Napier

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 30th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 410

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Every family has secrets that bind them togetherA heart-rending story of a guesthouse keeper and his wife who attempt to start over, from devastatingly talented debut author Kali Napier.

  1. Ernie and Lily Hass, and their daughter, Girlie, have lost almost everything in the Depression; all they have keeping their small family together are their secrets. Abandoning their failing wheat farm and small-town gossip, they make a new start on the west coast of Australia where they begin to build a summer guesthouse. But forming new alliances with the locals isn’t easy.

Into the Hasses’ new life wanders Lily’s shell-shocked brother, Tommy, after three harrowing years on the road following his incarceration. Tommy is seeking answers that will cut to the heart of who Ernie, Lily and Girlie really are.

Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is a haunting, memorable and moving tale of one family’s search for belonging. Kali Napier breathes a fever-pitch intensity into the story of these emotionally fragile characters as their secrets are revealed with tragic consequences. If you loved The Light Between Oceans and The Woolgrower’s Companion you will love this story.

‘Kali Napier may be a debut author but she is certainly no novice. The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is an incredible novel, a story layered with all of the hallmarks that make for an Australian classic.’ – Theresa Smith

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Secrets at Ocean’s Edge is a story about a family and the secrets they are hiding from each other, and the small towns they live in – Perenjori, on the wheat farm – Cowanup Downs, and the town they move to at the height of the Great Depression in 1932 – Dongarra (spelt with two r’s at the time) in Western Australia. Ernie, his wife Lily, and their daughter, Girlie have left a failing wheat farm for a new life and new guest-house venture in Dongarra by the ocean. Here, they are determined to hide their secrets – from each other and from the close-knit town – unsure of who they can trust. As hints drop at their secrets – Lily’s Arnott’s tin, Ernie’s frequent absences, and Girlie’s questions about the Feheely family and why Ruby Feheely can’t go to school with her – more secrets are destined to come out, especially when Lily’s brother, Tommy arrives – still scarred from The Great War, after six years apart, and Tommy’s search for his family. The secrets Lily has kept from him will set off a chain reaction of events, where even the most innocent of secrets can harm, and where the Hasses secrets are unlikely to stay secret forever.

Kali has used her own family history as inspiration for this story, and woven these family stories and history together with research and fictional characters to create an engaging story. It is a story about what the love for family does, and what people will do for family and to protect themselves and those they love. Likened to The Light Between Oceans, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge reveal the flaws of humanity and the attitudes of small towns to something a little bit different, and how the people involved cope with this. I’m finding that Australian Women Writers have a wonderful way or using more than just romantic love to tell a story, and when it is used, it fits in with the rest of the story and doesn’t overpower the driving force of the plot. In The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge, Kali Napier has achieved all of this, and diversity within her novel where the characters and plot drive the novel in equal amounts, ensuring that the history is presented realistically and the characters are true to themselves. A wonderful debut that I recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and stories about family love with a depth that allows the flaws as well as the good characteristics of Lily, Girlie, Ernie and the other characters to shine through.

This marks off square two in row two of my Book Bingo and will be linked back to in one of the write ups to come in the next few weeks.

Kali Napier’s debut novel, The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award as her first manuscript. It was also a finalist in the Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program.

Booktopia

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

light between oceans.jpgTitle: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Steadman

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: Vintage

Published: 3rd December 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: This mesmerizing Australian novel has been a bestselling book around the world, and Hollywood movie rights were recently snapped up by DreamWorks, with David Heyman (Harry Potter) set to produce. It is the winner of three prestigious ABIA awards, including their ‘Book of the Year’, and also won the Indie Awards’ ‘Book of the Year’. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. Then one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads. Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

Winner of three ABIA awards for Best Newcomer, Best Literary Novel and Book of the Year – 2013 ABIA Book of the Year, 2013 ABIA Literary Fiction of the Year
Winner of two Indie Awards for Best Debut and Book of the Year – 2013 Book of the Year

Winner of the Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award for 2013
Recently voted Historical Novel of 2012 by GoodReads
reading community

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe Light Between Oceans opens in 1926, when Isabel and Tom Sherbourne discover a boat washed up on the shore of their home, Janus, with a dead body and a baby inside. Torn between doing the right thing according to the laws of Australia, Western Australia and the code of being a lighthouse keeper he is bound by, and what feels like the right thing as humans, yet under the law is wrong, Tom and his wife Isabel make the decision to keep the baby and raise her as their own, and not notify anyone of her presence. Lucy grows up in this isolated place, studying the land and the stars, and the sea, learning the boundaries of this place, and slowly becoming a little person with curiosity, but also immense trust in the two people she thinks of as her parents. A chance trip to the mainland for her baptism will set in motion a series of events that lead to the discovery of what really happened to the man in the boat, and the fracturing of a life that seemed so perfect – and what happens when the truth comes out, and for both sides, right and wrong look like the same thing – the best place for a little girl who had been washed ashore in a strange place, and whose family had thought her gone.

When Tom and Isabel are faced with having to give Lucy back to her real mother, everyone is affected by the lies and deception, and the fallout that leads to tragedy and separation. Their lives have been impacted by several miscarriages, the arrival of the boat, and Tom’s service in World War One – the scars of the war are ever present throughout the book, and threads of the story hint at these deep physical and emotional scars that have impacted a generation sent away to a war to end all wars. This backdrop gives insight into how the characters make decisions and why, and who they end up becoming. Tom and Isabel are good people, who thought they were doing the right thing, in a place where communication with other people might not happen for months at a time. When they are caught up in the legalities and returning Lucy to her mother in Partageuse, their lives take an unexpected turn, and the happy ending for Lucy that they’d all hoped for looks like it might not come. The life that Isabel had imagined for Lucy is lost as the truth comes out, and the little girl is returned to the family who thought her lost forever.

I’ve described this as literary fiction mixed with historical fiction – set in a time and place between a war, and the Great Depression, The Light Between Oceans uses history as its backdrop but is heavily driven by the characters of Tom, Isabel, Lucy, and the character of the lighthouse, and Janus. Slowly, the mainland characters come in but they’re more peripheral in Tom and Isabel’s journey. The conflict of morals and the right thing to do – as a human and legally – drive the conflict of the plot and the characters. As a reader, I was always thinking about why a character did what they did, or reacted the way they did – and M.L. Steadman has created flawed, imperfect characters who are at war within themselves and whose react to what is happening in a very human way. It is a story of human hope, trust and emotions, and what we can be driven to do when caught in a tricky situation where no answer feels like the right one.

Booktopia

Angus & Robertson – Up to 25% off all Fiction titles in our Santa’s Little Helpers Showcase

Secrets Between Friends by Fiona Palmer

secrets between friendsTitle: Secrets Between Friends

Author: Fiona Palmer

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 12th September 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Life was about living, experiencing and emotions. The good and the bad. You had to laugh to cry. You had to love to hurt. You had to jump to fall or fly.

Best friends AbbieJess and Ricki are setting sail on a cruise ship, rekindling the excitement of a school excursion they took ten years earlier to the historic port town of Albany, the oldest city on the stunning turquoise coastline of Western Australia. But are they truly prepared for what this voyage will reveal?

Ricki, a dedicated nurse, harbours a dream she hasn’t chased. Is she actually happy or stuck in a rut?

Jess, a schoolteacher and single mother to little Ollie, had a tough upbringing but found her way through with the help of her closest male friend, Peter. But Peter has bought an engagement ring and is ready to propose to Ricki . . .

Abbie had it all: a career, a loving boyfriend and a future, but a visit to the doctor bears scary news. Her world is tumbling down and she feels adrift at sea.

SECRETS BETWEEN FRIENDS is a poignant novel of romance, family dynamics and friendship. Through her highly relatable, sympathetic characters, beloved Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer writes about issues, experiences and emotions we have all faced while posing the ultimate question: What is really important in this life?

~*~

Ricki, Abbie and Jess have been friends for as long as they can remember, and have always shared secrets, and confided in each other – until recently. Jess is a single mother and teacher, who has never revealed the identity of her son’s father. Ricki is a nurse, living with Peter, Jess’s best friend since childhood, and harbouring her own secrets about her dreams that she’s ignored for years, and Abbie has just lost her job, her boyfriend and received devastating news that she feels she can’t share with her friends – at least not yet, if ever. And Peter, loyal to them all, unaware of the secrets his friends are keeping, harbours feelings for two of them. Together, they embark on a cruise to Albany to revisit where they once went during school. It is on this journey that the secrets they have been hiding from each other explode into the open, with each reacting differently to the revealing of their secret to their friends and everyone finding a way to cope, culminating in events towards the end that change their lives forever.

aww2017-badgeWhen I first received this book, I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it – however, I found that in some ways I did – I enjoyed that the focus was on the friendship rather than romance, and the life goals of the characters. I felt this gave it something special and important, that finding the one you love isn’t the be all and end all of your life, but having friends who are your chosen family and whom you care about no matter what is just as, if not more important, and it was to Ricki, Jess, Abbie and Peter. I think reading about friendship and the love of friends who become your family is something we need more of – it gives everyone something to relate to, even if you can’t relate directly to the events and characters, but we can all relate to family and friendship, and the importance of this.

As this was the first Fiona Palmer I have read, having received an uncorrected proof with an adorable little beach chair courtesy of Hachette, I wasn’t sure what to expect – and whilst it is one that I may not read again, fans of Fiona will enjoy her latest offering, exploring friendship and what can make or break friends and relationships. The romantic relationships did happen, but were secondary to the friendship the characters exhibited. I hope that fans of Fiona’s work will enjoy this and maybe she will find some new fans from this book too.

Even though I have no plans to read this book again soon, it is a nice light read, and there will be an audience out there for it, and it is possible I will one day revisit this book, but for now, I’ll work my way through the rest of this year’s review books.