Review: Half the World in Winter by Maggie Joel

 

Title: Half the World in Winter

Author: Maggie Joel

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

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Status: Read from October 13 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A story of tragedy, grief, and redemption, Half The World in Winter centers around Lucas Jarmyn and his family who are mourning the grisly death of nine year old Sofia. As the household struggles with the loss of their beloved daughter and sister they turn away from each other, and their home, in which Lucas forbids a fire to be set, grows ever colder.
Hundreds of miles away a train accident claims the life of a young girl. Her grief stricken father, Thomas Brinkley, demands justice from the head of the railway, Lucas Jarmyn, and when it is not immediately forthcoming, seeks revenge on the man and his family.

Half the World in Winter is an exploration of the dynamics of a family in mourning, and the impact of death and grief in a period where tragedy was common. The Jarmyn family are not only struck by the death of Sofia, they lose a nephew to the Boer War, a cook to a chicken bone, a discarded maid to vice, and are burdened by the deaths of those souls killed on the railway.

“Inside 19 Cadogan Mews time had ceased. It no longer existed, it had no meaning. A silence had fallen that no one felt willing to break. Footsteps were muffled, and commands, if they were given at all, were given in muted whispers in the hallways and corridors. doors were kept closed and before entering hands hesitated on doorknobs and deep breaths were taken. An excuse not to enter at all was often found.”

Set in England during the 1880’s, the period detail is rich and meticulous, from the minutiae of the Jarmyn’s household to the physical and social context of Victorian England. I was surprisingly interested by the workings of the Victorian railway system, and intrigued by the elaborate rituals of mourning – for middle class Britons there were strict rules to be followed after a death, determining, for example, the type and colour of fabric worn, to the depth of the border on notepaper.

“Half an inch for the first three months of mourning certainly. After that the border decreases to one-third of an inch. At six months it decreases to a quarter of an inch, then in increments of a tenth of an inch over the succeeding six months depending on the nature of the loss and one’s relationship with the deceased”

I did struggle with the sombre and often bleak timbre of the narrative and the measured pace of the novel quickened only marginally near the end. The writing however is stylish and descriptive, and the portrayal of the period is vivid.

Half The World in Winter is a genteel historical drama,  but it was a little too slow and solemn for me to really enjoy

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Review: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca James

 

Title: Cooper Bartholomew is Dead

Author: Rebecca James

Published: Allen & Unwin October 2014

Status: Read from October 13 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

When Cooper Bartholomew’s broken body is found at the base of a cliff his death is declared a suicide but Libby, Cooper’s girlfriend, refuses to believe him capable of it. Desperate to understand what led him to the edge, Libby retraces Cooper’s last hours, eventually unraveling a tale of betrayal, jealousy, and shocking secrets.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Cooper, Libby, Sebastian and Claire, and shifts between ‘then’, detailing the events that led up to Cooper’s death, and ‘now’, exposing its aftermath.

Though well paced, the novel lacked much of the tension I had been expecting, this is more of a psychological drama than a thriller. I found the plot fairly predictable and while the circumstances surrounding Cooper’s death, when finally revealed, are emotionally powerful, they didn’t come as a surprise to me. However, I found the narrative very compelling, due in no small part to my investment in the characters.

All four protagonists felt genuine in ways to me that other characters in the New Adult genre have rarely done, I believed in their emotion, motivation and actions. The characters have distinct voices, which is important given the structure of the narrative, and are complex individuals. The relationship dynamics are also convincingly drawn.

An engaging read about friendship, first love, loss and lies, I really enjoyed Cooper Bartholomew is Dead. This is Rebecca James’ third novel following on from Beautiful Malice and Sweet Damage.

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Review: Killing Adonis by J.M. Donellan

 

Title: Killing Adonis

Author: J.M. Donellan

Published: Pantera Press October 2014

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Status: Read from October 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

‘WANTED: NURSE (a proper one, not a silly male one) PRETTY (but not too pretty CLEVER (but not too clever) APPLICANTS WITH AN EXCESSIVELY CURIOUS AND INQUISITIVE NATURE ARE DISTINCTLY NOT WELCOME. LIGHT DUTIES. LARGE PAY. (ALL CASH. NO QUESTIONS ASKED OR ANSWERED)’

After several hours of swilling booze with best friend Callum, Freya Miller drunkenly emails her CV in response to an unusual ad passed on to her by her friend, Jane. Just hours later she is summoned to the home of the powerful, wealthy and eccentric Vincetti family and promptly hired to care for their revered comatose son, Elijah. Though forcefully warned that curiosity about her employers, their business, or her patient, will not be tolerated, Freya can’t resist unearthing their secrets, but is wholly unprepared for what she finds.

Killing Adonis is Brisbane writer J.M. Donellan’s debut adult fiction novel. With larger than life characters (including a cameo from Marilyn Munroe), a strange mystery and a surreal plot that teeters between farce and satire, it is a quirky and darkly comic story about corporate greed, obscene privilege, and murder.

Freya is an entertaining character, quick witted and bold, with a prodigious capacity for booze, an irrational fear of pineapple cutters and the ability to see music as colours (a synesthete). She blithely ignores her employers warnings as she begins to poke around the mansion uncovering, amongst other things, two identical baby’s rooms, one entirely pink, and one entirely blue, a room filled with boxes of tiny woollen jumpers (which she later learns are for the penguin victims of an oil spill), three billiard rooms, and Jack.
Jack, Elijah’s older brother, suffers from mild Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease), agoraphobia and writer’s block. He becomes Freya’s unlikely, and sometimes unwilling, ally in the hunt for the truth about his brother’s coma and his parent’s machinations.
As Elijah lies silently, a sculptured Adonis surrounded by ‘beepers’, Freya and Jack begin to investigate the enigma of Elijah’s coma, the mystery of the ‘Danger Room’, the death of a beloved maid and a string of corporate rivals, all to expose Evelyn and Harland Vincetti’s diabolical secrets.

For me, Killing Adonis was a surprising page turner. I was thoroughly entertained by the snappy writing, audacious characters, and gaudy plot. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend readers comfortable with something a little less mainstream give it a chance – no question.

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Review: Outback Ghost by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Ghost {Bunyip Bay #3}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: Harlequin Au October 2014

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Status: Read from October 03 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Outback Ghost is the third book in Rachael Johns’ loosely linked Bunyip Bay series, following on from Outback Dreams and Outback Blaze.

Readers familiar with the previous books will recall being introduced to Adam Burton, a former underwear model and third generation farmer, and the whispers about the unresolved disappearance of his seven year old sister when Adam was ten years old. Twenty years later, Adam’s mother is still mired in her grief, and his father suddenly announces he has had enough, leaving Adam to take care of their sheep and wheat property, and to welcome their new farm-stay guests.
Stella Reynolds, a waitress, author and single mother is looking forward to spending two months on the Burton farm with her seven year old daughter, eager for Heidi to experience the joys of country living that characterised her own idyllic childhood, before the estrangement with her parents caused by her teenage pregnancy. Within hours of their arrival, Heidi has charmed their landlords, the gorgeous Adam, and his wan mother, adopted a pregnant cat, and even made a new imaginary friend, whom she calls Lily-Blue. Stella should be delighted that her daughter has settled in so well but instead she feels slightly apprehensive about the weeks ahead. At first she attributes her anxiety to her undeniable attraction to Adam, Stella hasn’t had so much as a date since Heidi was born, but she is also spooked by the unexplained noises she sometimes hears in the cottage and her discovery that her daughter’s imaginary friend shares the same name as Adam’s missing sister.

While at its core Outback ghost is a contemporary rural romance featuring the development of the relationship between Adam and Stella, the plot includes an interesting element of mystery and a hint of the supernatural. It is a heartwarming story about love, family and belonging but with a bittersweet twist when it reveals the fate of Lily-Blue.

It’s a delight to revisit the community of Bunyip Bay, and glimpse familiar characters from previous stories. Johns protagonists are always well developed and I enjoyed getting to know Adam and Stella. Adam doesn’t flinch from the responsibility of the farm, and caring for his mother. He carries around a fair bit of guilt over his sister’s disappearance, and for the aftermath, yet he hasn’t let it consume him entirely. Stella is a likeable, capable and admirable heroine who deals with challenging circumstances with determination and grace. She is a little guarded, understandably so, so I really liked watching her open up to Adam and form tentative friendships with Frankie and Ruby. Heidi is a definite scene stealer, affectionate, sweet natured and lively, she is an adorable character. Few authors manage to portray child characters realistically but I think Johns does so perfectly here.

Outback Ghost is my favourite novel of the Bunyip Bay series, and was supposed to be last, however I believe Johns has decided to revisit the town eventually and give Frankie an opportunity to find love… I can’t wait.

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Weekend Cooking: Cook Book by Matt Preston

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

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Title: Cook Book

Author: Matt Preston

Published: Plum: Pan Macmillan October 2014

My Thoughts:

Matt Preston is a food critic and an editor for Taste Magazine but is best known as the chin stroking, cravat wearing co-host on the popular Australian television series of Master Chef.

The Cook Book is Matt’s second published recipe collection boasting ‘187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular’ and ‘Amazing cheats and food hacks’ with a centerfold to boot. It’s a large format softback with matte pages where the recipe faces an attractive full page colour photo of the dish.

Matt begins with a fairly standard introduction before offering advice on being a good guest, and a long list of rules for hosting the perfect dinner with friends. To be fair his guidance is sensible and useful including tips such as – ‘When you are planning the menu, serve as many things as possible that can be prepped ahead. You want to spend time with your guests, not alone in the kitchen.’ and ‘Don’t forget to put BBQ gas, booze and other drinks, too much ice and good toilet paper on the shopping list.’

Preston states that he has three firm rules when he writes a cookbook
1. The recipes must be simple
2. The ingredients in the vast majority must be available from a local supermarket
3. There can never be a pasta salad in the book.

The recipes are well presented with a short comment to introduce the dish, often offering a tip or two, a bolded list of ingredients and clear prep and cooking instructions. The Cook Book includes recipes for Breakfasts, Soups, Salads and Vegetables, Ubersalads, Snacks, Pasta, Seafood, Chicken and Duck, Meat, Desserts, and Afternoon Tea.

As promised, some recipes are very simple, for example Ice Cream Bread, Idiot Cake and Pizza Dough each have only two ingredients. Preston also builds on some of his basic recipes suggesting ‘4 ways with burgers’, ‘3 ways with flatbread’ ‘3 ways with kale’ and ’30 other things to do with chicken mince’.

Preston takes inspiration from a range of cultures for his presented dishes that include Middle Eastern Rice Pudding, Thai Pumpkin Soup, Spanakopita Filo Triangles, Blackened Lamb Backstraps with Turkish Muhammara and Ice Cream Peanut Butter Sandwiches. He also offers recipes for classic dishes such as Meatloaf, Potato Salad and Quiche Lorraine, with his own twist.

I’ve used his recipes to make Sticky Chicken Drummies and Thai Chicken Sausage Rolls {but I lost both photo’s with the iOS 8 upgrade}. They were, however, delicious and I still have a few recipes bookmarked to try including Chicken Loaf with Onion Jam, Pain Roules, Smoky Corn Macherony and Butternut Snap Tarts.

You can find a selection of recipes from Matt Preston – though not those found in this book, at Master Chef Australia and Taste.com.au

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Review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill

reluctantlycharmed

 

Title: Reluctantly Charmed

Author: Ellie O’Neill

Published: Simon and Schuster October 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from October 01 to October 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Reluctantly Charmed is a bewitching novel from debut author Ellie O’Neill.

Kate McDaid is curious when she is summoned on her 26th birthday to a lawyer’s office to hear the reading of a will written 130 years ago. The will, penned by Kate’s great-great-great-great aunt, requires her to agree to publish a series of letters over seven weeks in exchange for her inheritance. Kate, a modern Dubliner and junior copywriter, is bemused to discover the letters contain Seven Steps that her aunt, a self proclaimed witch, claims will reunite humanity with the near forgotten world of fairy. Not seeing the harm in fulfilling the eccentric request, Kate publishes the first letter online but within days her life is turned completely upside down.

Entertaining and light, Reluctantly Charmed is a fanciful story about self discovery, modern day malaise, and magic, with appealing touches of humour, intrigue and romance.

An ordinary young woman, with a 9-5 job in advertising to which she rides her bike everyday, a crush on a gorgeous pub singer, and a tiny flat in Dublin, Kate is a likeable character who is easy to relate to. She is naturally skeptical of her aunt’s claim that she was a witch who communed with the fairies, and that Kate too has powers. Even as Kate instinctively offers ‘spells’ to her girlfriends to improve their love life or help their children sleep or chats with the flowers on her desk, she remains doubtful of the existence of magic, more concerned with attracting the attention of ‘rock god’ Jim, lining up ‘The Hoff’ to star in a client’s campaign and getting to the corner store without being accosted by the Anorak gang. Kate is astonished by the snowballing interest in the ‘Steps’, fueled by social media, which bestows on her an unwelcome celebrity status.

Ireland is an ideal setting for the novel, given the country’s traditional association with the ‘wee folk’. Despite the modern pace of Irish life, belief in fairy folklore still lingers and O’Neill’s story invites the reader to imagine the possibilities. The ‘Seven Steps’, which urges people to reconnect with nature and promise a revelatory reward, is an irresistible lure for those, from the earnest Simon the Anorak to the sinister journalist, Maura Ni Ghaora, looking for the potential of magic.

With well drawn, engaging characters, a delightful premise and effortless style, fans of magical realism are sure to be enchanted by the whimsy of Reluctantly Charmed.

Learn more about Ellie O’Neill and Reluctantly Charmed in her guest post for Book’d Out

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Reluctantly Charmed Blog Tour: Ellie O’Neill on Irish Fairy Lore

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Ellie O’Neill took the long way round. She sold spider catchers in Sydney, flipped burgers in Dublin and worked in advertising in London. All the while, she had that niggling feeling, that she had stories to tell. So, at thirty-something, she made the brave leap and moved back in with her parents to get the job done. Swopping the dizzy disco lights of London for their suburban Dublin house, she scribbled away knowing that there was something about Irish fairies she needed to share with the world. Then most unexpectedly Ellie fell madly in love. The only catch, he lived in Australia. True to form she couldn’t ignore the magic and followed her heart to Oz for what was supposed to be a long holiday. Five years later Australia is home to Ellie, her Joe and their fabulous baby (with an Irish name no one can pronounce).

Reluctantly Charmed (Simon and Schuster Au October 2014) is Ellie O’Neill’s first novel. You can read my review HERE, but first, read on to learn more about this delightful novel…

reluctantlycharmedKate McDaid is listing her new-year’s resolutions hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.
Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Almost instantaneously, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye.
As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil her great-aunt’s final, devastating request … and whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.
Witty, enchanting and utterly addictive, Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities … and a little bit of magic.

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I’m delighted to welcome Ellie O’Neill to Book’d Out today to share a little about how her granny and her belief in fairies inspired the writing of Reluctantly Charmed.

My Granny Believed in Fairies by Ellie McNeill

My granny believed in fairies. She was a formidable woman who shed her rural upbringing with delight and made a very modern life for herself in Dublin. She worked when that wasn’t the done thing for a woman, she dressed in the height of fashion at all times, she drank Brandy or champagne, and was a keen poker player. But there were old fashioned traditions from her upbringing that she was never able to shake, and one of them was her belief in fairies.

Fairy lore in Ireland has been handed down from one generation to the next and is a predominantly rural tradition. Irish fairies are not angelic woodland creatures, they like to drink whisky, dance, sing songs and play sports. The belief is that if they are not kept happy they will turn nasty and play an evil trick on you. The good news is that it’s not too difficult to keep them happy; leave them be, don’t disturb a fairy ring, leave a little bit of milk for them at the end of your glass, wash the steps at the front of your house for the fairies to have somewhere nice to rest as they’re passing by. If however, they are angered they could perform all manner of devilment on you. Granny told me stories of her village, and how a local farmer was said to have stepped into a fairy ring and that was the cause of his club foot. Back then, if a farmer had a bad harvest it was more often than not because of something he had done to the fairies. Ailments and disabilities were regularly attributed to their anger. She also had a story of a man who was given a hump on his back because he sang one of their favorite songs out of tune. Fairies were not to be messed with.

What’s interesting about this piece of Irish folklore is that, unlike in other cultures the fairies are not confined to childhood. They belong to the adult world. A thread of this superstition still exists today, the majority of farmers in Ireland would be incredibly reluctant to farm through a quarter of an acre of a field that houses a fairy ring. Just in case. They would also incur a government fine of up to $20,000 as fairy rings are seen as our cultural heritage and are protected landmarks.

After my Granny had passed away and I started to write Reluctantly Charmed, I could not shake the memory of her putting her glass on the window sill with two fingers of milk in it. What I had accepted in my childhood deserved some exploration in my adulthood. I investigated the folklore and fell in love with that romantic otherworld and all the magic and mystery that surrounds it.

****

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Review: Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McIerney

 

Title: Hello from the Gillespies

Author: Monica McIerney

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin AU September 2014

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Status: Read from September 25 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Australian-born but Dublin-based Monica McInerney is an internationally best selling author of novels that explore the joys and challenges of family and relationships. Hello from the Gillespies is her tenth novel, following on from her most recent successes, The House of Memories and Lola’s Secret.

For thirty three years, Angela Gillespie has sent a lighthearted letter on December 1st, updating family and friends on the lives of the Gillespies, who live on a large sheep station in outback South Australia, but this time when she sits down to write her annual missive she forgoes the usual niceties and vents her doubts about her marriage, her concerns about their financial affairs, her worries about her children, her frustrations with an interfering aunt and wonders, what could have been. The letter was never meant to be sent but Angela is interrupted by an emergency (her youngest son accidentally amputating the tip of a finger) and her husband, who hasn’t bothered to read the letters in years, thinks he is being helpful when he presses send.

Hello from the Gillespies offers a warm hearted, funny and sometimes poignant glimpse into family life. When Angela’s letter makes all their secrets public, the fall out for the family, which includes her husband Nick, their adult daughters Genevieve, Victoria and Lindy and ten year old son Ig, is mixed. As they struggle to come to grips with the truths laid bare, an unexpected twist in the tale challenges the very foundation of the Gillespie family.

McIereny’s characters are appealing and believable. As a wife and mother, I identified with Angela’s frustrations and concerns. It is a rare woman I suspect who hasn’t at least once wondered ‘what if?’ Perhaps my only niggle is that I felt the adult daughters behaved in ways more appropriate for twenty something rather than thirty something year old’s (I don’t have a lot of patience for the adultescent trend). However, the situations the characters find themselves in ring true, albeit slightly exaggerated, as do the dynamics between the family members.

Despite its length, the story had no trouble keeping my attention with several twists to the plot keeping it interesting, though the conclusion was predictable. The writing is accessible with natural dialogue. The settings, which includes the Gillespie station and brief glimpses of Ireland, London, New York and Adelaide, are authentically portrayed.

A heartfelt, witty and perceptive story about family, friendship and love, Hello from the Gillespies is an entertaining and charming read.

 

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Review: Rain Dance by Karen Wood

 

Title: Rain Dance

Author: Karen Wood

Published: Allen & Unwin September 2014

Status: Read from September 24 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Rain Dance is an enjoyable Australian rural romance for an young adult audience from accomplished author, Karen Wood.

When the Harvey family loses their house to the bank, they are forced to relocate from their coastal home to an isolated property in Gunnedah to fulfil a temporary building contract. Fifteen year old Holly, along with her two older brothers, Brandon and Jake, and younger sister, Eva, have no option but to make the best of the situation but she can’t imagine ever considering the arid land home.

Seventeen year old Kaydon Armstrong is shocked when he returns home from boarding school for the holidays to learn his father has made a deal with an investor to expand their cattle farm. Given the current drought conditions, Kaydon is suspicious of the investor’s motives but his father isn’t interested in his doubts and is determined for the deal to go through.

Rain Dance is an engaging story set in Gunnedah, a regional area in New South Wales. There is a sweet romance that develops between teenagers Holly, a vegetarian, and Kaydon, a fifth generation cattle farmer, action packed scenes when an accidental fire sparks and threatens Holly and her family, and a touch of intrigue when it becomes obvious the investor willing to bankroll the Armstrong’s plans for expansion has his own agenda.

While Rain Dance is aimed at a young adult audience Wood doesn’t shy away from illustrating the realities of life. She explores the affect of the financial crisis through the Harvey family’s losses, the emotional and financial strain drought has placed on regional farmers and raises the environmental risks of mining. Wood also examines some difficult themes through some of the minor characters. Kaydon’s best friend Dan has been struggling since the death of his father in a farming accident. Dan’s mother has been unable to maintain the farm and, with the family on the verge of losing everything while the insurance company delays payment, Dan is growing increasingly desperate. Jake, Holly’s brother, has admitted to being gay and is feeling lonely, and Holly’s mother has just been diagnosed with cancer, with the only treatment available hundreds of kilometers away.

With appealing characters, a strong sense of place and a well crafted plot, Rain Dance is a lovely read. I’d recommend it for adult fans of the rural romance genre to share with the teens (age 12 and up) in their life.

 

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Review: Rachael’s Gift by Alexandra Cameron

 

Title: Rachael’s Gift

Author: Alexandra Cameron

Published: Picador:Pan Macmillan September 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from September 20 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An intriguing story about love, ambition, manipulation and betrayal, Rachael’s Gift pits husband against wife as they disagree about what they think is best for their child.

Rachael’s Gift unfolds from the alternating perspectives of husband and wife, Camille, a high-strung art historian who investigates the provenance of artwork, and once dreamed of being a famous painter, and Wolfe, an easygoing Aussie bloke who surfs every morning and shapes surfboards in his garage, who are the loving parents of Rachael. Fourteen year old Rachael, precocious and charming, is a gifted artist and Camille is determined to protect the future she has envisioned for her daughter at any cost. Wolfe is proud of Rachael’s talent but is increasingly concerned about his daughter’s gift for lying, especially when she accuses a teacher at her prestigious private school of sexual misconduct.

“She shook her head in disbelief, ‘You’re going to ruin her. Don’t you realise? I can’t let you do it.’ Her chest heaved and then some kind of realisation dawned in her face. ‘Oh my god, you don’t love her. You wouldn’t do this if you did.’
I felt as if my veins were bursting, ‘Of course I love her,’ I shouted, ‘It’s because I love her!’
‘This is not love.’
I stabbed my finger in her face, ‘You love her too much.'”

Unwilling to compromise, Camille flees with Rachael from their Sydney home to Paris, ostensibly to attend a family memorial service for her recently deceased mother, and to further investigate the provenance of a painting at the center of a dispute, but also with the hope she can wrangle Rachael an interview at the prestigious Beaux-Arts Institute. In Paris, Camille is faced with truths she would rather ignore and lies she has forgot she has told, but her focus is Rachael and she must decide what she is willing to sacrifice for the chance of her daughter’s success.

Meanwhile Wolfe, who arrives home to find his wife and daughter have fled without a word of warning, is left to cope with the fall out as word leaks of Rachael’s allegations. Wolfe is reluctant to believe his daughter would go so far as to ruin a man’s life with spurious allegations, but he can no longer ignore the evidence that suggests it is not only his daughter is a liar, but his wife too.

The protagonist’s of Rachael’s Gift are skillfully drawn and developed. Rachael is not unlike a modern day Lolita, whose age belies her innocence. Cameron portrays Camille’s and Wolfe’s emotional upheaval with authenticity. I sided with Wolfe in his arguments with Camille but as a mother I also understood her instinct to support her daughter.

Cameron also raises some of the modern concerns of parenting such as cyber-bullying, sexual predation and the narcissism of youth, and questions the choices parent have in an era where they are expected to protect their children from the consequences of their own behaviour and to support their ambitions without censure.

The pacing is perfect. There is increasing tension as the situation in Sydney spirals out of control and as the relationship between Camille and Rachael begins to fracture in Paris. The conclusion is startling in its honesty.

Part domestic drama, part psychological suspense this is a compelling read and an impressive novel from debut Australian author, Alexandra Cameron.

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