The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland is a gorgeous book inside and out. The cover is to die for and inside the book each chapter is named after a different wild flower and accompanied by a stunning illustration. Even if you never read this book, you’d want to own it based purely on its visual loveliness. So it’s good to know that it’s also a wonderful story.
This debut novel tells the story of Alice Hart, a young girl whose childhood is marred by a terrible tragedy that sees her mother, father and dog killed in a fire. Up until this point, Alice has grown up isolated on a property under the thumb of her abusive father. Alice is emotionally scarred by all that she has been through. Continue reading →
If you’re reading a crime novel set in a small Australian country town you can be sure of a few things: the story will take place against a harsh, unforgiving natural landscape; there will be a bevy of local characters with secrets to hide–from hard-drinking farmers to small town gossips; everyone will know everyone in town and there will be a couple of long standing feuds; and there will be something bad that happened in the past which is somehow connected to this latest crime. That’s not to say that these books aren’t a pleasure to read, I just often see this pattern.
Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to pick up The Dry by Jane Harper. It was the book on everyone’s lips in 2016, winning rave reviews from critics and racing up the bestsellers chart. Booksellers and book lovers embraced this debut and you would have had to be living under a rock to not have heard about it. It has also been optioned for the screen by Reese Witherspoon. Even now, The Dry is still picking up accolades, the recent being Jane Harper winning the British Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger award for the best crime novel of the year. Continue reading →
I have many reading goals: to read more books; to jump on reading bandwagons and see what the fuss is about; to read outside of my comfort zone and across different genres; and to read more books written by Australian authors. I’ve been doing all this so far, apart from the last point. I don’t read enough fiction by Australian authors.
Well, I’m happy to say that the book I’m about to review was written by an Australian – Y.A. Erskine. The Betrayalhad me riveted from page one. I was surprised to learn that this is only the author’s second book because she writes like one of the crime writing pros.
The Betrayal is set in Hobart, Tasmania, and tells a story of corruption and injustice at the heart of the police system. A young constable, Lucy Howard, wakes up in bed with a colleague, Constable Nick Greaves. She has no recollection as to how she got into this situation. The last thing she remembered was having a sip of her third drink for the night and watching the start of a DVD with Nick.
Mortified by this experience, Lucy tries to put it behind her. She has a boyfriend who she is crazy about and Nick is just a good friend. But a couple of weeks later when talking to the victim of a sexual assault involving a date rape drug, everything becomes clear to Lucy. She can’t remember what happened with Nick because she was drugged. She is a victim of sexual assault.
But what can Lucy do? Nick is one of the most popular officers around. He is good-looking and has no problem attracting female attention. Who is going to believe Lucy’s story? It is difficult enough for any victim of rape, but how can one police officer accuse another of the same crime, especially in a culture where it’s hard enough for women to be granted respect? It’s also a culture where you don’t rat on your fellow police officer, no matter what. Lucy feels she has no other option but to report the crime – and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
The Betrayal is told from the point-of-view of various players: Lucy; the Detective Sergeant who she reports the sexual assault to, the corrupt Police Commissioner; the Detective Inspector charged with investigating police corruption; the police psychologist; friends of the accused; Lucy’s boyfriend; the accused; and more. What becomes clear is that everyone has their own agenda and for some helping out a “mate” comes before their duty to uphold the law and see that justice is served.
The more I read, the angrier I got and the more helpless Lucy’s quest for justice seemed. Her colleagues are divided as to whose side to be on. While some men support Lucy, others see this as another example that women don’t belong on the force. Surprisingly, some women also turn against her: some because by coming forward she has made it difficult for all women in the police force, others because they are friends of Nick’s and believe plain Lucy should be flattered she received Nick’s attention.
The plot of this book resonates as something that really could happen – and does happen. You often read of these cases in association with male-dominated workplaces like the military. It was no surprise to read that Y.A. (Yvette) Erskine spent eleven years in the Tasmanian Police Service. Her real-life experience brings even more authenticity to this story.
To find out what happens to Lucy, you’ll have to read The Betrayal for yourself. Just be prepared for your blood to boil during the process!
What makes a good book? Well, a riveting plot helps, as do believable characters and masterful writing that makes it impossible to put the book down. Rarely do you find a book that combines all these elements and more. The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman is such a book. It is both a critic’s darling and a reader’s delight. I bought it on Saturday and finished it on Monday night, having a good weep as I read the final pages. This book is both heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching. And if I could think of another ‘wrenching’ it would be that as well.
The story is set in the 1920s in a remote corner of Western Australia. Tom Sherbourne is a man still haunted by the things he saw and did during World War One. He is a decorated soldier who doesn’t want to dwell on the past and sees no glory in what he did during the war. He finds solace by becoming a lighthouse keeper. There’s something about maintaining a beacon of light that soothes his soul. He also doesn’t mind the isolation.
Tom’s job brings him to the small town of Point Partageuse and then out to a tiny island called Janus Rock. From the lighthouse he can see where two oceans meet: the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. He is the sole occupant of the island and only sees people from the mainland every three months when the supply boat comes out. He gets shore leave very rarely.Before he took up this post, he met Isabel, the 19-year-old daughter of the local headmaster. She is lively and vibrant, full of life. After a time of exchanging letters, they marry and she goes to live with Tom on Janus Rock.
Two miscarriages and a stillbirth later, Isabel is a shell of her former self, stricken by grief at her loss. That is until the day a boat washes up on the island, carrying a dead man and a crying baby girl. It’s Tom’s duty to report the incident at once, but Isabel has other ideas. Tom reluctantly agrees to keep the baby and pretend she’s their own. But where does the baby come from? Who does she belong to? And what will happen if the truth should ever come to light?
I don’t want to give away any more of the story because not knowing what will happen next is one of the strengths of this book. The language is exquisite, beautifully crafted without isolating the reader. The characters are three-dimensional and constructed so well that you care what happens to them. And the dialogue evokes the bygone era. This book also seamlessly explores themes of loss, love and family.
It’s no wonder that this debut novel has been snapped up in twenty territories so far. Now I’m left to wait impatiently for the next book by M.L. Stedman.