Rebecca Oakes is just thirteen when her mother passes away, and she is left to care for her ageing father. However, it is not only family that stands in the way of Rebecca’s dream.
She will have to fight the Australian society – a society where it is difficult for a woman to get an education, where women can’t own property, have no vote and no voice. Will she be thwarted by a man who is determined to stand in her way?
Review by Hazel Barker
Rebecca’s Dream is a sequel to Suzannah’s Gold and opens in the autumn of 1873. Her mother has just died and thirteen-year-old Rebecca is left to look after her ageing father, who suffers from depression and dementia. She dreams of studying to be a teacher and entering a convent but her desires are thwarted when she takes on the burdens of others and cares for them.
The story rambles on with births and deaths until the evocative scene of John’s attack of typhoid and her sister Mary’s helplessness in Chapter 4. Rebecca’s Aunt Mary Anne and her Uncle Bill prove a source of comfort to her. Her friend Sarah gives her the moral support she needs, and Sister Catherine’s words of encouragement help Rebecca to keep her faith in God. Sarah’s brother Herbert, however, is a constant source of annoyance to Mary.
Despite all drawbacks, Rebecca displays astonishing strength of spirit and selflessness. She also shows righteous anger over the restriction of women especially in regard to education and the laws of inheritance. Her Catholic religion and her views on women’s rights cause dissention within her family but the budding love between Sarah and William bring a touch of romance to the otherwise sorrowful tale.
Although the misuse of the word ‘laying’ on page 234 and elsewhere in the book rob the novel of much of its true worth, the story is a good read.
Rebecca’s Dream depicts the religious bigotry and injustice towards women during the early days of Australian settlement. The author brilliantly captures the fire scene in Chapter 4. Chapter 17 in which the rape occurs is eloquently described too, and the final pages add suspense when family secrets hover like shadows over the story.