What I Am Reading This Week

Banjarwarn

Josh Kemp

UWA Press

ISBN:9781760802141

Description:

Winner of The 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript

Garreth Hoyle is a true crime writer whose destructive love affair with hallucinogenic drugs has sent him searching for ghosts in the unforgiving mallee desert of Western Australia. Heading north through Kalgoorlie, he attempts to score off old friends from his shearing days on Banjawarn Station. His journey takes an unexpected detour when he discovers an abandoned ten-year-old girl and decides to return her to her estranged father in Leonora, instead of alerting authorities. Together they begin the road trip from hell through the scorched heart of the state’s northern goldfields.

Love, friendship and hope are often found in the strangest places, but forgiveness is never simple, and the past lies buried just beneath the blood red topsoil. The only question is whether Hoyle should uncover it, or run as fast as his legs can take him.

Banjawarn is an unsettling debut from Josh Kemp. Echoing Cormac McCarthy’s haunting border trilogy and narrative vernacular that recalls the sparse lyricism of Randolph Stow and Tim Winton, this is a darkly funny novel that earns its place amongst the stable of Australian gothic literature.

This week ….

This week sees another work by a West Australian author land in my post box. I think this is the year that WA authors will shine. Banjarwarn is the debut novel, winner of The 2021 Dorothy Hewett Award for an Unpublished Manuscript written by Josh Kemp, a resident of the South West of Western Australia.

This book is about landscapes both familiar and alien, and sometimes they are both at the same time. 🙂 The red dirt, the remoteness, the regional towns of Kalgoorlie and Leonora are all too familiar, we took a caravan trip through these towns ( and further) last year ( and lots of my recent abstract landscapes were inspired by these areas, their remoteness, their bold colours, their atmosphere). Kemp captures these moody, vast, isolated, locations perfectly.

The landscape of drug abuse – PCP and ‘meth is one I am not so familiar with and Kemp paints a picture that shocks and yet informs and somehow is empathetic.

This book defies being defined as this or that. It is a love story, it has gothic echoes, it is a story of drug abuse, it is a story of compassion and friendship…it is a story of a harsh landscape and ultimately it is a story of hope.

I do hope you get an opportunity to read this one.

PS the cover art perfectly depicts the remote and wild country that the book rests on.

Review: Starting From Now – Fleur MacDonald

Starting From Now

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529284

 

Description:

A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues from our genuine Voice of the Outback, author of the bestselling Where the River Runs

 

When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.

 

Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.

 

But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.

 

Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?

 

Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.

 

 

My View:

Fleur McDonald has an authentic country voice that she uses to share her experiences and knowledge of life in small country towns, farming and life in general. This narrative had a couple of standout plot threads – activism and social media – looking deeper, reflecting on “snapshots” on social media and media manipulation and the family in crisis.

 

I was particularly touched by the family scenes that dealt with family crisis (no spoilers here); the scenes were realistic, emotive and evoked memories that transported me to a difficult period in our lives. This was unexpected but very well written. I felt part of this family, dealing with their issues.

 

 

This book packs a mighty punch, cleverly weaving many plot threads together to bring about an informative, insightful and satisfying read.

 

 

 

Two Reviews in One! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart: Holly Ringland

This book is so amazing it gets two reviews! 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holy Ringland

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

ISBN: 9781460754337

 

Description:

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

 

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

 

 

My View:

This is a very very, very special read– unique; the sense of place, the credible, flawed characters (I have come across people who share some of the characteristics portrayed here), a narrative of such sadness juxtaposed against the overarching optimism of the prose, the way unique Indigenous stories and culture are woven into the narrative…I could continue to rave and rave.  But I won’t, this is a book you must read for yourself, with no spoilers and no hints of what awaits Alice’s life.

 READ IT.

 One more thing – the cover art is award winning!

 

Brenda’s Review:

The days when her father wasn’t home were the best of all for young Alice Hart. She and her mother would tend the garden together, finding a calm and peace that was never around when he was there. Alice adored her mother and was terrified of her father. But at nine years of age, a tragedy meant Alice had to live with her grandmother – a woman she had never met – on a flower farm a long way from the seaside that was the only home Alice had known.

Gradually Alice came to love the flowers and their meanings. The way they spoke when words were too hard. Learning the language of flowers created a peace within Alice – until her peace was shattered. With her heart broken, she fled the farm and all it had meant to her, driving without knowing where she was headed. Alice’s unexpected destination was deep in the Australian desert where the Sturt’s desert pea was prolific and filled with meaning.

Haunting and dangerous – that was her time in the middle of Australia. But would Alice ever find solace? Could she make peace with her past and finally look forward to the future?

Enchanting; heartbreaking; divine! Stunning; spectacular; poignant! What a debut! The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is all that and more, by an Australian author I’ll be keeping an eye out for from now on! Holly Ringland’s debut novel is full of depth and emotion; the story of a young girl who had to find the strength to live a life which was so different from the one she had envisioned. The cover of the book is beautiful – I was drawn to it – the beginning of each chapter with the type of Australian native flower and its meaning adds more to the story. Holly Ringland has captured the essence of Australia, and I have no hesitation in recommending The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart highly. 5+ stars!

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read and review.