Published: April 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Red Door Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Red Door Press for my gifted copy of the novel.
A tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession. London in 1891: Harriet Cameron is a talented young artist whose mother died when she was barely five. She and her beloved sister Sarah were brought up by their father, radical thinker James Cameron. After adventurer Henry Vincent arrives on the scene, the sisters’ lives are changed forever. Sarah, the beauty of the family, marries Henry and embarks on a voyage to Australia. Harriet, intensely missing Sarah, must decide whether to help her father with his life’s work or to devote herself to painting. When James Cameron dies unexpectedly, Harriet is overwhelmed by grief. Seeking distraction, she follows Sarah to Australia, and afterwards into the outback, where she is alienated by the casual violence and great injustices of outback life. Her rejuvenation begins with her friendship with an Aboriginal stockman and her growing love for the landscape. But this fragile happiness is soon threatened by murders at a nearby cattle station and by a menacing station hand who is seeking revenge.
Thought-provoking, compelling, tender and evocative, this delightful novel explores issues such as equal rights for women and all races in nineteenth century London and Australia.
Sisters Sarah and Harriet Cameron were raised in London by their progressive, philosopher father. After his death, Harriet travels to Australia to join Sarah, who is there on an extended honeymoon with her husband Henry. Living in Dimbulah Darwin, deep in the Australian outback, the sisters must adjust to a harsher, more dangerous existence, but soon find joy and friendship in their new home. But as racial tensions rise, they must find a way to protect not only themselves, but those they’ve come to care about.
I love historical fiction because of the opportunity to immerse myself in another place and time, and the chance to learn more about those periods. This novel captures a moment in history I knew little about, which is part of the reason I jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour. Themes of injustice run through the novel and are explored through topics such as women’s and equal rights, appropriation, and racism. It was jarring to read the stark reality of the Aborigines lack of rights and the fear in which they were forced to live in a land that was taken from them. Harriet’s battle for independence and autonomy was a reminder of those who fought for equal rights and to be thankful for the rights women enjoy living where and when we do today.
The characters are compelling, flawed and real. Harriet and Sarah are very different people but are both complex women with a heart of gold and great strength. We watch them wrestle with themselves as they embark on a journey of self-discovery, going through great changes in the seven years over which the story is told. Harriet in particular suffers an identity crisis and does a lot of soul searching during her time in the outback, embracing the teachings of the Aboriginals. I loved this inclusion of so many Aboriginal characters and the inclusion of them as memorable characters in their own right rather than simply being nameless background workers.
Told in short, tightly crafted chapters, this is a subtle and steadily paced novel. But as the threat towards those at Dimbulah Darwin escalated, the tension radiated from the page and my heart raced in anticipation. The author’s prose is lyrical and bursting with rich imagery that made me feel like I could actually see the bright colours of the Australian Outback.
I highly recommend this uplifting, powerful and endearing story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alison Booth was born in Melbourne and grew up in Sydney. She is a professor at the Australian National University and the author of three novels: Stillwater Creek, The Indigo Sky and A Distant Land, all set in the fictional town of Jingera. She lives with her husband in Canberra’s inner north, and has spent two decades living and working in the UK.
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