Review: Flame Tree Hill by Mandy Magro


Title: Flame Tree Hill

Author: Mandy Magro

Published: Penguin May 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read on May 15, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Netgalley/publisher}

My Thoughts:

Flame Tree Hill is the name of twenty four year old Kirsty Mitchell’s family cattle station, but its been a while since she has been home for any length of time. After a devastating car accident, Kirsty left the farm, first to study and then to the UK for work haunted by the events that killed three of her closest friends. But with her employment contract up, Kirsty is finally feeling strong enough to confront her past and is looking forward to returning to the North Queensland tropics.
Kirsty is delighted to be collected from the airport by her big brother, but is taken by surprise at his companion. Aden, the older brother of Kirsty’s best friend who died in the crash and Kirsty’s long time crush, is establishing a mobile vet service in the area and is now her housemate. Despite Kirsty’s reservations, neither can deny their mutual attraction but their fledgling relationship is severely tested when Kirsty is diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.

Flame Tree Hill is the third novel set in rural Australia by Mandy Magro, a country girl from Far North Queensland and unfortunately I am conflicted when it comes to my opinion of it, despite enjoying several elements of the story.

I thought the writing, and in particularly the dialogue, was a lot more polished that in Jacaranda, where I struggled somewhat with her writing voice in a way I couldn’t quite articulate.

I again loved Magro’s distinctly Australian settings which draws on her own experience and knowledge of the land. The author brought not only Flame Tree Hill station but also the community of Hidden Valley to life.

I admired the author’s willingness to tackle the issue of breast cancer and its distressing physical and emotional effects, particularly with a such a young character. Kirsty’s journey through treatment is frightening and confronting yet Magro handles it both honestly and compassionately.

I could sympathise with Kirsty’s distress regarding her diagnosis, her fears regarding her prognosis and her very real struggle to face the challenges she is confronted with. I think she copes admirably with everything and her moments of weakness, anger and frustration are a natural consequence of the illness.

Aden proves to be an incredibly caring and patient hero, despite Kirsty’s diagnosis he doesn’t hesitate to give her his full support and whatever assurances and strength he can. Unfortunately Kirsty finds it difficult to accept the love he offers, especially as her sense of guilt and shame grows as her emotional guards are weakened by her battle against cancer.

But then the author made a plot decision within the story that left me quite horrified. I can’t say too much without revealing a major spoiler but I’d be remiss not to mention that for me, it compromised the integrity of the primary characters and as a result my feelings about the entire book. I’m not sure if another reader will feel the same about the choice Magro makes in Flame Tree Hill but for me it was strongly affecting and I even deliberately delayed my review to see if my indignation would fade but it hasn’t, hence my quandary.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1girl2manybooks
    May 29, 2013 @ 09:37:03

    Having read this too, I know exactly what you mean and I felt the same way. This book crossed a line for me, with what I can feel sympathetic too and I was horrified at the casual attitude towards what happened and the way other people reacted. It’s something that I feel very strongly about and I’m so surprised this was okayed.



  2. Paula
    May 31, 2013 @ 19:17:20

    I’m intrigued – I’m halfway through this at the moment.



  3. Paula
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 08:24:22

    Finally finished last night and I have to agree with you both – this really crossed a line for me too and it was really unsettling how this event was “trivialised”. I have zero tolerance for this and there is no excuse and should have been excluded from the story all together if it wasn’t going to be dealt with properly and fully (which would have been a whole other book).



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