Review: I’ll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde

Title: I’ll Take What She Has

Author: Samantha Wilde

Published: Bantam February 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 20 to 21, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’ll Take What She Has is a wry exploration of motherhood, marriage and mid life discontent as envy and resentment simmers between long time best friends Nora and Annie. Nora is newly married and desperate to have a child while Annie harbors a secret ambivalence as a stay at home mother to her two young daughters. When Cynthia Cypress arrives at Bixbie, Annie is predisposed to scorn her effortless sense of style and generous financial means but Nora is drawn to Cynthia’s glamorous facade and flattered to be courted by the new ‘queen’ on campus. As the relationship between Nora and Annie begins to deteriorate, both women find themselves wondering who they really are and who has what they really want.

Though the blurb implies the friendship between Annie and Nora is the focus for this novel, I feel the emphasis in I’ll Take What She Has is on the dynamics of motherhood. I’ll Take What She Has thoughtfully examines a wide range of related themes including adoption, infertility, marriage, family dysfunction and belonging. The author explores these issues through both her main protagonists and the minor characters in the story, providing a variety of perspectives that shows how each issue is complicated by the individual’s experience.

Thankfully Wilde’s rather caustic sense of humour offsets the serious elements of the novel. Between Nora’s freeloading, hard drinking cousin who dispenses free sex therapy and Annie’s barbed observations of her WASPy neighbours there are some funny scenes that lighten the tone.

The narrative shifts between Nora and Annie’s perspective creating well round characters, though to be honest I didn’t grow particularly fond of either of them. I’m not sure why exactly since many of their experiences mirror my own. I suppose I connect a little more with Annie as a mother who has parented a spirited child (or four) and I could relate to Annie’s ambivalence about her role. During my children’s early childhood I have variously worked full time, part time and been a stay at home parent and have found none of the situations ideal.

Overall, I thought I’ll Take What She Has to be an astute, entertaining novel exposing the complications of modern motherhood.

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Review: Absolution Creek by Nicole Alexander

@ Goodreads

Title: Absolution Creek

Author: Nicole Alexander

Published: Random House Australia September 2012

Synopsis: In 1923 nineteen-year-old Jack Manning watches the construction of the mighty Harbour Bridge and dreams of being more than just a grocer’s son. So when he’s offered the chance to manage Absolution Creek, a sheep property 800 miles from Sydney, he seizes the opportunity. But outback life is tough, particularly if you’re young, inexperienced and have only a few textbooks to guide you. Then a thirteen-year-old girl, Squib Hamilton, quite literally washes up on his doorstep – setting in motion a devastating chain of events… Forty years later and Cora Hamilton is waging a constant battle to keep Absolution Creek in business. She’s ostracized by the local community and hindered by her inability to move on from the terrible events of her past, which haunt her both physically and emotionally. Only one man knows what really happened in 1923. A dying man who is riding towards Absolution Creek, seeking his own salvation… From the gleaming foreshores of Sydney Harbour to the vast Australian outback, this is a story of betrayal and redemption and of an enduring love which defies even death. Read an excerpt

Status: Read from November 25 to 27, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy TheReadingRoom/ Random House Australia}

My Thoughts:

As a fourth generation grazier, Nicole Alexander writes what she knows, sweeping sagas set in Australia’s rural farming land. Absolution Creek is her third novel, with dual narratives set in 1923 and 1965.

Jack Manning is eager to escape the family run grocery store in Sydney’s grimy city streets and make his fortune so when a kindly neighbour offers him the opportunity to make a living on the land he jumps at the chance. Promising to send for his sweetheart, Olive, in a few months, Jack sets off to Absolution Creek determined to establish New South Wales finest station. With only a few books to guide him he purchases sheep and begins the arduous task of taming the bush.
More than forty years later, as an old man begins his journey from southern Queensland in search of redemption, Cora chases a wild pig from the banks of Absolution Creek in the predawn light and considers the imminent arrival of the niece she has never met, and her plan for revenge against the step sister who destroyed her family.

Initially the shift between timelines is quite disorientating as the characters seem entirely unrelated but as the narrative unfolds revealing the past and present, the stunning connections between Jack, Scrubber, Cora slowly begins to emerge. Three quarters of the way through the lengthy book I was tempted to complain about the sheer crowd of characters but as the book concludes each finds a path that adds to the depth of the plot. It was Squib’s, and later Cora’s, story I found most intriguing though, as the epicenter for novel’s story.

The historical details in the novel are fascinating, beginning with the forced acquisition of homes and businesses to make way for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I can barely imagine the city without the iconic structure in place. I was also unfamiliar with the story of the ram featured on our fifty cent piece, (I am sure I have mentioned it before but Australian history was completely neglected when I was at school and I am constantly amazed at what I am finally learning through fiction) which I found interesting. At least I know a little about the hard work it took (and still takes) to farm in rural Australia and I felt Alexander’s portrayal of the life authentic.

Absolution Creek is a complex tale of love, betrayal, jealousy, murder and revenge. I found it to be an absorbing read and I’d recommend Absolution Creek to fans of both historical fiction and the rural lit/romance genres. I am only sorry it took it’s time making it’s way to the top of my reading list.

Available To Purchase

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