Review: The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser

Summary

This is the story of Nell, who becomes a widow in the early pages.  The setting is Ballarat, at the time of the 19th century goldrush and the Eureka Rebellion. In a time where women were not treated as equals, Nell’s courage and strength take us on a journey back in time to a harsh male dominated environment.

This is the story of Nell’s struggle for survival, and the obstacles she comes up against in her fight to move forward from the abusive life she lived with her husband.  All Nell wanted was the opportunity to earn her own living and live a happy and peaceful life with her new chosen partner.

As the author shows, it is a harsh life on the gold fields, and harsher for women struggling to earn a living and ensure their own safety. The challenges are great and at times seem insurmountable.

From the back cover: ‘Passion, adventure and a woman’s quest for independence, set against a dramatic 19th century backdrop….’

My Thoughts

The author weaves events from history into the novel, which is what I love about reading historical fiction. I felt as though I was there on the goldfields, living the life of a down trodden female. I could really feel the dreadfulness of a life lived that way. Most books written about this era of Victorian history, show the male viewpoint. How lovely it was, to read of the events of the day, and every day life from the perspective of a female.

Recommendation

The Widow of Ballarat had me hooked almost immediately. By chapter 2, I knew this book would be unputdownable. As a genealogist and family historian with ancestors who lived and worked on the goldfields at Ballarat and surrounding areas, I was immediately taken back to that time and place.

If you have an interest in Victorian history, you will love this great story of the time interwoven with a lovely romantic story line.

I would recommend first reading the Free prequel – Hill Of Gold

This is the first book written by Darry Fraser that I have read, but I will be seeking out her other books in future.

www.darryfraser.com


About The Author

Darry Fraser is an author of Australian historical and contemporary fiction who lives and works on Kangaroo Island.
Other books: Daughter of the Murray and Where the Murray River Runs.

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Published by Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, in 2018. Historical novel. Paperback 354 pages

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Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Summary

On a very hot night in the summer of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, age 13 is woken by knocking at his bedroom window.  He finds Jasper Jones there, trying to wake him. Jasper is an outcast in the town. He is a bit rebellious, a loner and of mixed race.  But when Jasper asks him to go into the night with him as he needs help, he goes along, even though he is terrified. Jasper takes him to his secret place in the bush where Jasper’s horrible discovery is revealed.

Charlie promised to keep the secret but is weighed down by it. All that he knows about life so far, changes that summer. He constantly argues with his mother , falls in love and his relationship with his best friend Jeffrey Lu changes. Secrets are revealed and life is never the same again.

My Thoughts


Jasper Jones is a coming of age story set in a small town in Western Australia. It captures perfectly, life in small town Australia in the 1960s.

The chapters are quite long, but the writing is beautiful to read.  I did find the first half of the book quite tedious, as the characters were set up, and the tension and underlying simmering in the town were introduced.  This seemed to take longer than I felt was necessary, and I just wanted to get to the story.

But I did really enjoy the second half as it moved along quite quickly.  Instead of showing 1960s Australia as very peaceful and nostalgic, this small town was  revealed to be a place of prejudice, racism and intolerance. As the community confronted what was happening in their town, those ugly traits became worse.

Recommendation


I’m sure this book wouldn’t be for everyone. It isn’t an easy read but if the time is invested to get into the story, the rewards are great. This story has been recommended as being Young Adult reading, but that confuses me. To me, Jasper Jones is heavy going and covers subject much to dark for Young Adult.

I couldn’t get this book out of my mind for a long while after reading it. There is much written there to make the reader squirm and feel uncomfortable. The final scenes which I won’t reveal were gut wrenching and unforgettable.

Jasper Jones has been described as Australia’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m not so sure about that. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favourite books of all time, and to me Jasper Jones doesn’t come anywhere near it.  But possibly I am biased.

Awards

Winner of the Indie Book of the Year Award in 2009
Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010
Winner of the Australian Book Industry Award in 2010
Winner of the Booksellers Choice Award in 2010

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Published by Allen & Unwin in 2009. Genre? Softcover 394 pages

CraigSilvey.png
               Craig Silvey

Further reading:  Craig Silvey discusses writing Jasper Jones

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.

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