Review: The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

 

Title: The Flight Girls

Author: Noelle Salazar

Published: July 2nd 2019, Mira Books

Status: June 2019, courtesy HarperCollins/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar is a fascinating, fictionalised account of the role female pilots played on the home front during World War II.

With dreams of one day owning her own small airfield in her home town, Audrey Coltrane is one of a handful of female civilian flight instructors assisting in the training of airforce recruits in Hawaii as World War II rages in Europe. She’s content spending her days in the air, and her nights in the company of her roommates, determined to avoid any romantic entanglements which could jeopardise her future plans.

And then, on an ordinary day in December during a training flight with a new recruit, Audrey encounters a squadron of Japanese planes on their way to devastate Pearl Harbor. While Audrey narrowly escapes with her life, thousands, including a close friend and colleague, are not so lucky.

In the wake of the attack, Audrey returns home to Texas but soon grows restless and accepts an invitation to join the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Audrey Coltrane is a well developed character, the story unfolds from her first person perspective and I found her to be relatable, admiring her passion, courage and strength. The character of Audrey seems to have been in part inspired by Cornelia Fort, Like Cornelia, Audrey comes from a well off family, and graduated from Sarah-Lawrence College. Fort was the first aviator to encounter a Japanese pilot during a training flight on the day of the Pearl Harbour attack, and was one of the first women to join the WASP program, though tragically, Fort was killed during a mission in 1943, attributable to another (male) pilot’s error.

I was fascinated by the activities of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD), which were later combined and became the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), though this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered it in fiction. Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion also tells the story of this group of female aviators. These women were incredible, coming from a variety of backgrounds, volunteering to serve their country. They risked their lives flying aircraft cross-country, testing both new and repaired aircraft, and towing targets for live artillery practice. They were required to complete intensive military training, but the government took little responsibility for their well-being. They did not qualify for any military benefits, and the women were required to pay for their own room and board, transportation, uniforms, and flight gear, and if they were killed (a total of 38 women died), all funeral expenses, including the return of their loved one, was at the family’s cost.

The women with whom Audrey served, and the bonds that formed between them, is definitely a strength of the novel. The supporting characters are well crafted with distinct personalities, and I think representative of the varied women who joined the WASP. Salazar creates a genuine sense of camaraderie between these women, who both live and work together. Their support of one another is heartwarming, and Audrey’s friendship with Carol Ann is particularly delightful.

There is a strong romantic storyline through the book. Though Audrey believes there is no room in her life for love, marriage or children if she is to achieve her dreams, her relationship with airman Lieutenant James Hart, whom she first meets in Hawaii, causes her to question her convictions. After the attack in Pearl Harbor, James is deployed to Europe and while the two write to each other, Audrey is unwilling to admit the depth of her feelings for him until she receives word that he is missing in action, presumed dead or captured by the Germans.

What dulled my enthusiasm for the story slightly was the imbalance between ‘showing and telling’, with a single first person perspective, at times the narrative dragged. In her enthusiasm, I also think Salazar occasionally got carried away with including too many details that didn’t necessarily advance the story, and glossed over more important issues. There is the odd anachronism too, but I think overall Salazar managed to accurately portray the sense of time and place.

The Flight Girls is entertaining, touching, and interesting. I think it tells an important story that recognises and appreciates the contribution these women made to the war effort.

++++++

Available from Mira Books or Harlequin

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository

Note: One of the reasons I requested The Flight Girls is because my grandmother served in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) during World War II. Unfortunately there is no mention of women having any role during that period as a pilot in either a military or a civilian organisation in Australia that I’ve been able to find, though the woman instrumental in the establishment of the WAAAF, Mary Bell, did have a pilot’s licence. WAAAF recruits worked in technical positions such as flight mechanics, electricians, fitters, instrument makers, meteorologists, and as signal and radar operatives, as well as in roles in administration, and the medical field.

Review: A Daughter’s Tale by Armando Lucas Correa

 

Title: A Daughter’s Tale

Author: Armando Lucas Correa

Published: June 1st, Simon & Schuster AU

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy Simon & Schuster AU

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My Thoughts:

A Daughter’s Tale is Correa’s second book of historical fiction, following the publication of The German Girl in 2016. In ‘A Letter to the Reader’ penned by the author he explains the story was inspired by a conversation with a holocaust survivor, and his desire to tell another forgotten story of WWII.

Despite the troubling unrest in the streets of Berlin, and then the forced purge and closure of her bookstore, Amanda and her cardiologist husband Julius, naively believe their family, which includes young daughters Viera and Lina, will come to no harm from their German compatriots. It’s not until Julius is forcibly dragged from his office to serve the Führer in 1939, that Amanda finally realises the danger she and her girls are in, and when the pogrom begins, she is forced to flee. One of Julius’s last acts was to secure passage for their daughters on a refugee ship destined for Cuba, but unable to abandon both her children to an unknown fate thousands of miles away from her, Amanda sends only Viera to her brother’s adopted homeland. With three year old Lina in tow, Amanda makes her way to a friend’s home in southern France, hoping to escape the persecution she and her daughter face as German Jews.

Correa’s tale is one of courage, hope, desperation, and tragedy, as Amanda and Lina fight to survive among those that hunt, and fear, them. I appreciated the way in which he shows how Amanda struggles with each decision she makes, never certain if her choices will save, or condemn them. A brief period of respite with her friend Claire and her daughter, Danielle, renews Amanda’s optimism for the future, and she writes loving letters to Viera on the few pages she rescued from her favourite book, a botanical encyclopaedia, hoping they will find her in safe in Cuba. But their situation worsens when France surrenders to the Nazi’s, and Amanda grows ever more determined that Lina will have a future, and eventually reunite with her sister, no matter the cost to herself.

The strength of A Daughter’s Tale is in the characterisation, Amanda and Lina in particular are fully realised and sympathetically rendered. I was especially affected by the guilt Amanda felt, and the sacrifices she made.

Where it suffered, I felt, was in the pacing. Though I liked the way in which the story was introduced, and ended with Elise in 2015, I think the tale in Germany perhaps began too early. Only a fraction of the story, barely a few pages in fact, actually features the horrific event in 1944, where the villagers of Oradour-Sur-Glane in the south of France, were brutally massacred by soldiers, though the tragedy becomes a pivotal moment for Lina. Such a heinous act is difficult to convey, and while I think Correa gave it the gravitas it deserved, I’m not sure the brevity had the impact within the story that the author hoped for.

A Daughter’s Tale is a moving novel, also exploring larger themes such as identity, home, family and faith, it’s impossible to be unaffected by the experiences portrayed by Correa.

Read or listen to an Excerpt

******

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

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Review: The Policewomen’s Bureau by Edward Conlon

 

Title: The Policewomen’s Bureau

Author: Edward Conlon

Published: March 28th 2019, Arcade

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Skyhorse Publishing/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In his Author’s Note, Edward Conlon explains that The Policewomen’s Bureau is a lightly fictionalised account of the life of Marie Cirile-Spagnuolo, who began her career with the NYPD in 1957. A former officer himself, Conlon was fascinated by Marie’s experience as a married Italian woman in a male-dominated, predominantly Irish police department, and worked with her on this novel before her death in 2011.

Asked what is true, Conlon answers “Most of it, and the worst of it.”

In The Policewomen’s Bureau, Marie Carrara is a new recruit in the 44th Precinct. It’s 1957, and the majority of the NYPD believe the force is no place for a woman. Most serving female officers are tasked with matron duty, used to guard female prisoners, console victims, search dead female bodies, and, more often than not, fetch and carry for their male colleagues, never leaving the precinct. But there are a handful of women who are reluctantly called upon to assist in cases that require a woman’s touch. These women are under the command of Inspector Melchionne of the Policewomen’s Bureau, and Marie is excited to join them after six months on the job.

Despite her startling naivety, not unexpected for a young Catholic woman in the 1950’s, Marie quickly finds she enjoys, and has a talent for, the undercover work she is tasked with. I enjoyed Conlon’s descriptions of her activities which are interesting, and often amusing. Her first case requires her to apply for a job with a man who is sexually assaulting many of the young female applicants. While she is successful, it takes a few hits with her blackjack to cool his ardour, and while waiting for patrol officers to arrive she decides to tidy up, throwing out a canister of ‘spoiled’ sugar (which is later found to be cocaine), and incinerating a stack of dirty pictures.

I was disappointed to learn in an author interview that the only purely fictional part of Conlon’s novel is Marie’s later work with the detective squads. I don’t begrudge Conlon taking fictional licence, and these sections were well written and entertaining, however I can’t help but feel as if it somewhat negates the real Marie’s accomplishments as a pioneering policewoman.

Conlon also weaves the professional and personal together in The Policewomen’s Bureau to illustrate a woman who is intelligent, brave, and resourceful, yet still a product of her time and background.

In 1957, Marie is also one of four daughters of Italian Catholic parents, married unhappily to Sid, and mother of four year old Cindy. Sid, himself a police officer, is generally considered to be good looking and charming, but he is also emotionally and physically abusive, a serial cheater, and venal. It was many years before divorce would be an option for Marie, and while she slowly gained some measure of respect in her workplace, she never gained the respect of her husband.

The Policewomen’s Bureau is an interesting and engaging read, both as a work of fiction, and for the truth it shares about women’s early experiences as serving police officers in the NYPD.

++++++

Available to purchase from Arcade Publishing

or your preferred retailer via Indiebound or Booko

Review: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

 

Title: The Passengers

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Published: March 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2019- courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In Eleanor Limprecht’s captivating novel, The Passengers, a young woman is accompanying her grandmother from America to Australia after an absence of 68 years.

The narrative shifts smoothly between the present day, as the women journey on the cruise ship, and the past, as Sarah reminisces about her life.

“But Sydney isn’t home, love. Never was. Home is the farm we lost when I was sixteen.”

Hannah is fascinated by Sarah’s candid stories of her childhood on a dairy farm, her move to Sydney, her whirlwind romance with an American soldier during World War II, her journey in 1945 as a nineteen year old war bride on the USS Mariposa, and then her life in the US. Sarah shares her experiences both good and bad, of love and loss, and long held secrets. I was very invested in Sarah’s story which is beautifully told by Limprecht, and I was particularly interested in her experiences as a war bride, which I haven’t read a lot about.

“I wanted you close. I guess I hoped you’d want to talk about it, one day. I suppose it’s why I wanted to tell you about Roy. About the secrets I kept.”

While Hannah is ostensibly accompanying her 87 year old grandmother as a helpmate, Sarah hopes that by revealing her secrets on the journey that Hannah might do the same. I thought some of Hannah’s issues contrasted well with Sarah’s experiences, though her primary affliction was not one I found particularly effective in the context of this story.

Though it has its flaws, I thought The Passengers was a moving tale of joy, heartbreak, loss and adventure. I read it without pausing, and I will be looking for more by Eleanor Limprecht.

++++++

 

Available from Allen & Unwin

or from your preferred retailer via Booko

Also by Eleanor Limprecht reviewed at Book’d Out

6BEC9805-2571-41BF-9709-256727777305

Review: The Land Girls by Victoria Purman

Title: The Land Girls

Author Victoria Purman

Published: April 23rd 2019, HQ Fiction Au

Status: Read May 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In Victoria Purman’s historical fiction novel, The Land Girls, It’s 1942 and World War II has spread from Europe across the Pacific. As fathers, brothers, husbands and sons fight on the frontlines against the Germans, Italians and Japanese, the women left behind are asked to do more than just tend their victory gardens, knit socks, and roll bandages. While some women heed the call and join auxiliary services like the WRANS or the WAAF, or take up positions in factories and shipyards, workers are also desperately needed to ensure Australia’s agricultural industry doesn’t collapse and thus, The Australian Women’s Land Army was founded.

Flora, a 30 year old under-appreciated secretary, volunteers because while one of her brothers is serving overseas, the other cannot, and she is determined that no one will be able to accuse their family of not doing enough.

Betty, not quite 18, leaves her job as a Woolworth’s counter girl when her best friend, Michael, enlists, wanting to prove that she too can make a difference beyond selling cosmetics.

Lily chooses to join the Land Girls when her new husband must report for duty to the Airforce the day after their wedding, despite the displeasure of her ‘society’ parents who would prefer their daughter assist the war effort in a more seemly manner.

With warmth, humour and honesty, The Land Girls follows the journey of these three women from when, for meals, board, a brand new uniform, and thirty shillings a week, they are given their first assignments. It explores not only the challenges the women are faced with as they work long hours, largely unaccustomed to such intense physical labour, in unfamiliar surroundings with strangers, but also the emotional challenges of being separated from family, and their fears for their loved ones serving overseas. There are gains and losses, joy and heartbreak. All three of these women will be changed by their experiences as Land Girls, and the vagaries of war.

Well researched, The Land Girls is a wonderful tribute to the 6000 women who participated in the war effort as a member of The Australian Women’s Land Army between 1942 and 1945. It shamefully took more than fifty years for the Australian government to recognise the value of their contribution. I’m thankful Victoria Purman has shone a light on this admirable facet of history.

The Land Girls is a charming, edifying and poignant novel of Australian women in wartime and the important role they played on the home front, a story of resilience, tragedy and hope.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available to Purchase from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife by Barbara Toner

 

Title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife

Author: Barbara Toner

Published: April 2nd 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse AU

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My Thoughts:

Four Respectable Ladies Seek the Meaning of Wife is the sequel to Barbara Toner’s novel, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband.

In the intervening decade, Pearl McLeary has become a married mother of four, Adelaide Nightingale has been widowed, Maggie O’Connell is unhappily married, and not one of them is happy about the return of Louisa Worthington to Prospect.

Perhaps if I had read Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband previously, I would have been more invested in the characters, and hence the story. But unfortunately I have to admit I mostly found this quite hard going, though I did read to the end as I wanted to know how the four women resolved their issues.

I expect that those readers who enjoyed Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part Time Husband, will also enjoy this.

Read an Extract

++++++

Purchase from Penguin Australia or your preferred retailer via Booko

 

Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

 

Title: The Summer Before the War

Author: Helen Simonson

Published: March 24th 2016, Bloomsbury UK

Status: Read May 2019 courtesy Bloomsbury/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

The Summer Before the War is a winsome and poignant historical novel by Helen Simonson.

After the death of her beloved father, aspiring spinster Beatrice Nash is grateful to find a position as the Latin instructor in the village of Rye, East Sussex. It is the summer of 1914 and not everyone believes a young single woman is capable of teaching Latin, but with the support of society matron Agatha Kent, and her visiting nephews, surgeon-in-training Hugh and carefree poet Daniel, and Beatrice hopes to make Rye her home.

A quintessential turn-of-the-century village, Rye is a tight knit community, home to a cross section of English society, where everyone knows their place. Simonson wonderfully depicts the petty feuds, scandals and luncheon parties that occupy the town’s aristocracy, the traveling gypsies that camp on the outskirts of the village each summer, the largely uninterested, and unwashed, boys of Beatrice’s class, and the townsfolk and servants going about their everyday business.

But it’s 1914 and impending war heralds change for Rye and it’s inhabitants. Simonson skilfully contrasts the innocence of that summer with the changes to come. War is an abstract concept for most of the villagers, and almost all are convinced that it will be over in weeks, if not days. Even the arrival of refugees from Belgium, billeted amongst the eager wealthy families who want to be seen to be doing their duty, fails to communicate the gravity of the situation, as the mayor’s wife’s ill judged parade stunt proves. It’s only as rationing begins, as the men of the village leave and fail to return, or return broken, that reality begins to puncture the seaside idyll.

The themes of The Summer Before the War focus on the the Edwardian structure of gender and class, exploring Beatrice’s desire for independence, and a bright young gypsy boy’s wish for further education, amongst other circumstances, both directly and obliquely. Simonson also explores notions of duty, to oneself, to family, to others, and to the country in a time of war. And there is love, a slow-burning romance that takes two characters by surprise.

The pace is languid, reflecting the long days of summer, quickening as Simonson takes us to war. At over 500 pages some seem to find the story drags, but I was invested in the characters, and enjoying the subtle wit and rhythm of the language, so I didn’t really notice.

Engaging and endearing The Summer Before the War is a novel to enjoy at a leisurely pace on a warm spring afternoon.

++++++

Available to purchase from Bloomsbury UK

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Alternate covers

Review: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

 

Title: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet

Author: H.P. Wood

Published: June 7th 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark

Status: Read April 2019 – courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is an engaging novel set in the early 1900’s on Coney Island, New York.

It’s 1904, and seventeen year old Kitty Hayward finds herself stranded in Coney Island when her ailing mother, and all their belongings, inexplicably disappears from the hotel room they were sharing. Friendless, homeless, and penniless, she must rely on the kindness of a stranger who introduces her to the extraordinary employees and hanger-ons of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet.

“Theophilus P. Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is just an ugly old building with blacked-out windows and a faded sign. Thousands of souls may visit Coney Island, but few of those souls are hearty enough to peer inside Magruder’s heavy oak door.”

The characters of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet are extraordinarily rendered, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Magruder’s is a rundown dime museum crowded with oddities, staffed solely by Zeph, a legless black man. Upstairs lives Timur, a reclusive inventor, and Rosalind, who has a carny act as a half woman half man in a tent on the boardwalk. In the basement of the building is an unlicensed pub which welcomes the unusual employees of the Coney Island attractions after hours. It is with this eccentric family, which also includes Rosalind’s lover Enzo, and a mute orphan boy the call P-Ray, that Kitty unexpectedly finds refuge, and help.

“That’s what we call you…normal people. You call us Unusuals, freaks, monsters… Did you never think we’d have our own name for you? Dozens. As in, dime a.”

Wood takes a little liberty with some of the historical elements in this novel, but the story is richer for it. Coney Island becomes the epicentre of an outbreak of plague (inspired by a similar event which actually occurred on the country’s west coast) threatening both ‘freaks’ and ‘dozens’ alike. It is this tragedy that drives much of action, as the wealthy owners Coney Island’s businesses attempt to hide the virulent disease they call the ‘Calcutta Cough’ in order to protect their profits, and their employees are left to fend for themselves as the dead pile up around them.

“We must keep those hotels filled, miss! Keep those dancehalls crowded, keep that Shoot the Chute flying down the track. And if you develop a slight cough, if your complexion goes a bit lumpy? The men in masks will scoop you up and take you away…”

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is a thoughtful exploration of oppression, corruption, belonging, and compassion. Often delightful and charming yet also dark and challenging, its also a story of perseverance and redemption in the face of tragedy.

With lively characters, a colourful setting and a rich and interesting plot I found Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet to be an entertaining and enchanting read.

++++++

Available to Purchase via

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Review: Beloved Poison {Jem Flockhart #1} by E.S. Thomson

 

Title: Beloved Poison {Jem Flockhart #1}

Author: E.S. Thomson

Published: March 2016, Hachette

Status: Read April 2016 – courtesy Hachette/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

‘This is a most peculiar place,’ he said. ‘And the people in it are driven by the most extraordinary motives to do the most deplorable things.’

Beloved Poison is an atmospheric historical mystery, the first in a series from debut author, E.S. Thomson.

Standing since 1135, the crowded, dilapidated buildings of St. Saviours Infirmary are slated to be demolished to make way for a railway bridge. St. Saviours is the only home apothecary Jem Flockhart has ever known, but even she is not privy to all its secrets.

While showing William Quartermain, the junior architect tasked with organising the emptying of St. Saviours graveyard, around, Jem and Will discover six tiny paper coffins hidden in the crumbling walls of the chapel. Puzzled by the symbolism of their contents, she is determined to learn their origins, unwittingly unleashing the base instincts of a murderer.

“Oh, yes, I was unique among women. There had been an apothecary named Flockhart at St Saviour’s Infirmary for over one hundred years and I was set to inherit my father’s kingdom amongst the potions. But it took a man to run that apothecary, and so a man I must be.”

Thomson’s portrayal of Jem is nuanced and fascinating. In order to sustain the Flockhart legacy, Jem has no choice but to live as a man, but being forced to keep her secret at all times means she is often terribly lonely. She is disarmed by the friendliness of William, who seems unfazed by the large port wine birthmark that stains her face, and he is equally unruffled when he guesses her secret, though it is her childhood friend, Elizabeth, that she yearns for. Jem’s interest in the coffins is both a product of her natural curiosity, and a distraction from her father’s illness, as well as the uncertainty of the Infirmary’s impending closure.

“In reality they were no more than a collection of poorly-executed boxes, foolish totems that may well have been made and hidden away by a child, their significance at best random, and most likely meaningless. And yet I knew, in my heart, that these were spurious arguments.”

The discovery of the coffins is an eventual catalyst for three murders, Jem’s wrongful incarceration, and a revelation of past atrocities. The mysteries are interesting and involved. There are, among the often arrogant, petty, and morally corrupt staff of St. Savours, several suspects.

Where the novel unfortunately fell down for me was in the uneven pacing, exacerbated by the heavy foreshadowing of events.

“Stiff with old gore, Dr Graves’s coat had a thick, inflexible appearance, and a sinister ruddy-coloured patina like waxed mahogany. Dr Magorian’s was worse, being as dark and lustreless as a black pudding.”

Perhaps the strongest element of the novel is Thomson’s horrifying yet compelling visceral descriptions of the medical practices and beliefs of 1850. The author walks us through the dank and stinking wards of the Infirmary crowded with festering patients, the blood spattered operating rooms with floors strewn with sawdust, and the damp and chilly dissecting room. Thomson’s characters also briefly venture out of St. Saviours into the equally squalid streets of London, and to Newgate Prison.

I enjoyed Beloved Poison, particularly for its Victorian atmosphere and though it has its flaws, as the first in a series, I can see the potential, and I hope to read more.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase via

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Other books in the Jem Flockhart series

 

Review: A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

 

Title: A Few Right Thinking Men {Rowland Sinclair #1}

Author: Sulari Gentill

Published: September 1st 2017, Pantera Press

Status: Read April 2019 – courtesy Pantera Press/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Sulari Gentill’s historical mystery series featuring Rowland Sinclair has long been on my radar. I regret that it has taken me a decade to start it, though on the plus side, there are a further eight books ahead of me to enjoy.

A Few Right Thinking Men is set in New South Wales, Australia during the early 1930’s. It is a period of great political upheaval where, in the wake of The Great Depression, tensions are mounting resulting in the rapid growth of extremist organisations.

Rowland Sinclair, affectionately known as Rowly to his friends, is content to stay out of politics. As the youngest son of the wealthy and influential Sinclair family, he has largely been left to his own devices, allowing him to pursue his passion for painting, and support a revolving cast of fellow artists at his well appointed home, Woodlands House, on Sydney’s North Shore.

That is until Rowly’s uncle, for whom he is named, is killed during a home invasion, and rumour places the blame on an aggressive group within the New Guard, a far right political organisation focused on destroying the ‘red threat’ of communism.

“Till now, he had crowded his mind with his work and with things more mundane, but as he stood where his uncle had died, he was staggered by a deep sense of loss, and outrage.

Though Rowly’s goal is to bring uncle’s murderer to justice, the mystery surrounding his death is not really the focus of this novel. With the local detective reluctant to investigate, Rowly is convinced by his friends and houseguests Milton, Clyde and Edna to take on Clyde’s identity and infiltrate the New Guard, unwittingly putting himself at the epicentre of the dissent. It is the clandestine machinations of the various political organisations that is center stage here.

“He’d just have to hope to God that democracy would survive all these right thinking men.

The authors research is meticulous, sadly I’m almost wholly ignorant of my country’s past, but it’s understandable that Gentill would enthusiastically delve into this ‘fascinating and ludicrous’ period of Australian history. The situation, as the conflict between the spectrum of ideologies escalates, would be farcical if not for the seriousness with which they regard themselves. Each is convinced they are the only ‘right thinking men’ fit to lead the state, if not the entire country.

“You are who you are. Given your gilded background, you could be insufferable, but you’re not. I wouldn’t have you be anything else.”

I thought the characterisation of both the main and supporting characters was very well done. Rowly is kind, generous, thoughtful and loyal. For the most part apolitical, Rowly is well aware that his background makes him an enemy of the far left, and his lifestyle pits him against the far right. His older brother Wilford is contemptuous of his youngest brother’s ways, but Rowly is wonderfully supported by Edna, a beautiful sculptress with whom he is in love, communist poet Milt, and fellow painter, Clyde, and not just because he funds their modus vivendi.

A Few Right Thinking Men is an entertaining and astute novel, rich with history, drama, and engaging characters. I’m looking forward to continuing with the series.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase via

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