The Saddler Boys
Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.
When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew.
As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs.
Recently I have been reading a few “How to Write” type books and one piece of advice I see repeatedly offered is “write about what you know.” Fiona Palmer is an expert at this, her love of the county, in particular the Western Australian wheat belt, it small towns and the people who inhabit these town, shines in her books, this one is no exception.
Fiona’s love of the land is evident in every word, every sentence of this exceptional narrative; there are vivid scenes of sheep and shearing sheds, you can almost smell the lanolin, hear the buzz of the clippers, picture the farm/work ute and see yourself catching yabbies in the dam… I think this narrative works so well because you can so easily place yourself in the settings, the images are so alive.
Juxtaposed against the images of country life dictated by the seasons, a lifestyle built on community is the busyness and sterility of the city, Nat’s parents particularly showcase a world devoted to appearances, image, the creation of wealth, a world devoid of emotion. Uncle Kent is the exception in this city environment; a character that demonstrates that wealth and caring can go hand in hand.
Fiona Palmer’s writing is has depth and successfully tackles many contemporary issues – the demise of the small country town, the disproportionate number of males to females in country towns and the social implications of this factor, the closing of schools when numbers aren’t deemed viable and the negative domino effect this has on the rest of the community (the closing of the local shop, people moving to areas where there are a greater range of services etc.) domestic violence, custody battles… there is so much packed into this book.
This is an exceptional book; Fiona Palmer has created a country town that the reader can step into, a place where the characters are people you know and love (mostly), a place where family and community matter and woven into this rural scene are real and current issues. Fiona Palmer has successfully and engagingly written about what she knows best.