Monthly Archives: October 2014

Suzannah’s Gold by Carol Preston, Even Before Publishing, 2013Book

Book Description
Suzannah Casey was just twelve years old when she was transported to the Australian colony from Ireland. Though devastated by her circumstances, she was grateful to be given an opportunity to start a new life on the Goulburn Plains with ex-convict, George Oakes. However, Suzannah could never have imagined the trauma and loss that lay ahead of her. She must find the faith and courage to overcome abuse, abandonment, religious bigotry and her own yearnings in order to discover what is more precious than gold.
Review by Hazel Barker
Suzannah’s Gold is a smorgasbord of women’s fiction, family saga and historical fiction. The author uses excellent dialogue and vivid characterization. She delves into the main characters’ minds and we get a sense of their deep loyalties or hostilities and hatred.

Mary Anne springs to life with her Irish accent, her flirtatious behaviour, her bigotry and hypocritical ways. Adversity brings out the best in her and the reader sees remarkable character growth.

The protagonist, Suzannah, on the other hand, follows her conscience regardless of the consequences on her own happiness. She is intrinsically good: long-suffering, kind and forgiving, and faces no spiritual struggles. I found her too good to be true even though she was based on the author’s great-great-grandmother.

The book has been well-researched and its 309 pages are crammed with descriptions of drought, fires and floods. The description of the fire sets the scene realistically. It is vivid and quickens the pace. Although faithfully mirroring the early history of Australia, the frequency of births, sicknesses and deaths is repetitious. The number of characters causes confusion.

There are two rape scenes in the story—the first from the point of view of a child-witness. The second rape scene is well-written and depicted in all its horror without being offensive to the reader. Unfortunately, errors in the grammatical use of the word ‘lay’ interrupt the story and diminish the pleasure of reading. Readers should, however, add to their knowledge of Australian history and better understand the sufferings and strength the pioneers experienced.

Suzannah’s Gold with its theme of Christian charity, faith and forgiveness delivers a message with a strong ending:

‘Come to Me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

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Lane Cove Literary Award Memoir Longlist

Below is the Longlist from more than 500 entries received from all over Australia.

Hazel Barker – Love at first sight (QLD)
Peter Bishop – Tribal Man (NSW)
Jade Black – Moonshine (QLD)
Dave Cauldwell – Astride the Stegosaurus (VIC)
Elaine Fung – George (NSW)
Elisabeth Hanscombe – A trip to the beach (VIC)
Rowena Harding-Smith – Dad negotiates with God (NSW0
Simone MacKinnon – A day in the country (QLD)
Bruce Marshall – A hill by any other name (NSW)
Kerrin O’Sullivan – London calling (VIC)
Joshua Taylor – Winding back time (NSW)
Nicola West – Hysterectomy at 19 (NSW)


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Review of Cicadas In Summer by Sara Delaval

Cicadas In Summer by Sara Delaval Publishing, 2014

Author’s Blurb
In Brisbane, single parent Kate Anderson, 34, drops her two youngsters at school before a routine visit to Lisa, an emergency housing client. A Queenslander, social worker Kate has rebuilt her life after divorce and enjoys her work supporting disadvantaged people. After being first to witness the gory scene following the brutal murder of Lisa and her children, Kate turns to her close-knit family for support. She meets Jack, her brother’s solicitor friend and gratefully accepts his help, as the horrors multiply to engulf her. Suddenly and inexplicably, as she tries to piece the mystery together, Kate becomes the target of a prowler and telephone threats. Determined to find out why this is happening and feeling that the police are missing something, she ignores all warnings of risk to herself. Jack’s assistance becomes increasingly important and although romantic entanglements are out of the question, Kate finds herself strongly attracted to him. Events escalate with another killing and when Kate’s own precious children are kidnapped the stakes reach a new level. With the help of the police the children are rescued. Then when Prue, a work colleague disappears, Kate becomes bait to catch the killer.

Review by Hazel Barker
Cicadas in Summer is an excellent debut crime fiction set in the Redlands, Queensland. The author tells of a shocking tragedy in an otherwise idyllic suburb. Cicadas in Summer is a dark story with likeable investigators and a bumbling though well-meaning protagonist. It is deftly plotted and fast paced with a blend of mystery and romance, and possesses all the elements of a good crime novel, not forgetting the foreshadowing.
The dénouement packs a punch with a satisfactory ending.
I read Cicadas in Summer as I was intrigued by its title. I haven’t indulged in this genre since my childhood, and often wonder why women love them—not only its cosy, sanitised version, but explicit accounts of murder, rape and torture. This story is more of the former type of mystery. It may not result in nightmares for the reader, but could cause one to keep on reading late into the night.

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Review of Distance by Nene Davies

Distance by Nene Davies Publishing, 2013
Authors’s Blurb
Forty-year-old Welsh mum Isobel Richardson can cope with most things: her husband’s redundancy, a shortage of money, three spirited kids and a demanding old house. She sees the loss of Leo’s job as a chance for new beginnings and her drive and determination propel the family towards a sparkling new life in Australia. Isobel’s mother Helen, however, is devastated. Cold and unsupportive, she rejects Isobel’s invitation to join in the family adventure and throws the guilt card firmly down on the table. When the family lands in Oz and the longed-for dream unfolds, unbearable guilt at leaving a broken Helen behind is compounded by the pain of missing absent son Ben – and all the while Mother Nature is hatching some plans of her own. Has the great Australian dream really eluded her after all?
Review by Hazel Barker
The book, Distance by Nene Davies is the first in a series of women’s contemporary fiction, a genre I don’t usually read, as my preferences lie in historical novels and memoirs.
The author uses her outsider’s perspective as a migrant to illustrate the world around her, placing the reader where the scene is set. She does a solid job with the setting with her lush descriptions of the various surroundings. The story moves along with the occasional domestic scenes, but the pace quickens and builds up with the promise of a brighter future. The sparse, terse prose is lightened with similes, and culminates in a surprising and satisfying climax.
The protagonist’s motivations and feelings drive the story forward. Readers will anticipate reading its sequel, Further.

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