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All Day At The Movies – Fiona Kidman

Published March 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When war widow Irene Sandle goes to work in New Zealand’s tobacco fields in 1952, she hopes to start a new, independent life for herself and her daughter – but the tragic repercussions of her decision will resonate long after Irene has gone.

Each of Irene’s children carries the events of their childhood throughout their lives, played out against a backdrop of great change – new opportunities emerge for women, but social problems continue to hold many back. Headstrong Belinda becomes a successful filmmaker, but struggles to deal with her own family drama as her younger siblings are haunted by the past.

A sweeping saga covering half a century, this is a powerful exploration of family ties and heartbreaks, and of learning to live with the past

What did I think?:

8th March is International Woman’s Day, commemorating the movement for women’s rights, equality between the genders and celebrating all the achievements of women around the world. To celebrate this day, I’d like to showcase a very much new to me author (although incredibly prolific in her native New Zealand), Dame Fiona Kidman with her wonderful novel, All Day At The Movies which was brought to my attention by Gallic Press. A huge thank you to them for opening my eyes to a talented writer I have only now had the good fortune to come across and for the copy they kindly sent me in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed every sweeping moment of this narrative, packed full of drama, heart-ache, testing times and indeed, triumphs of one particular family. I loved how the author put so much heart into each character that she created and this only served to make me feel more connected and invested in each of them individually as a reader.

All Day At The Movies is an epic family tale spanning about sixty years focusing on a few members of a family down the generations. At first, we meet a determined mother, Irene Sandle who tragically, has become widowed with a young daughter, Jessie to support. She is forced to work in the tobacco fields of New Zealand in the early fifties which does not pay much and is back-breaking work but provides a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. However, in trying to provide a stable life for herself and her daughter, Irene becomes embroiled in a life that she hadn’t planned and unfortunately, will have severe repercussions for the rest of her children down the line as their story continues once Irene is gone.

I cannot say anymore than this – to do so would be to give far too much away! Let me just say, we follow a few of Irene’s children and how they deal with the struggles in their lives once their mother has gone and they are forced to navigate the world without her, without much support or strength from the other responsible adults in their lives. We hear very little about Jessie as she runs away entirely from the situation but it is obvious that the damage has already been done. We see a more prominent effect on the children left behind i.e. Belinda, Grant and the youngest girl, Janice who you could suggest goes through the most traumatic experiences. However, all children are affected in some way or another and even though Belinda does manage to make some success of her life after a rocky start, there are still demons that return to plague her, especially those connected with her siblings.

I absolutely adored the structure of this novel. It’s almost like a series of short stories, beginning in 1952 with Irene’s story, meandering right through the seventies and eighties and ending in 2015, where we begin to realise the full extent of how each of Irene’s children have been affected by their past experiences. It’s rare to find a perfect family of course, and relationships between certain members of our families can be tricky at times but Fiona Kidman illustrates these difficulties beautifully with a very sensitive analysis of the bonds that hold us together as a family and how tenuous these links can be, especially where there are issues of trust or neglect. I certainly wasn’t expecting some of the themes that the author covered, including emotional and sexual abuse, death, racism, poverty, adoption, mental illness…. I could go on, I’ve just scratched the surface with the amount of issues addressed here!

Finally, I just want to touch on the fact that the author also uses events in New Zealand’s history (which I know shamefully little about) to make an already action-packed narrative even more exciting. I was completely swept away, surprised and delighted by this fantastic novel which was a real joy to experience and I was quite sad to come to the realisation that we were in 2015 and there were no more generations of Irene’s family to follow just yet! I could have read about them for much longer and there’s certainly a few of the characters stories that will stick in my mind for a long while yet.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

All Day At The Movies by Fiona Kidman was the seventeenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

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Salt Creek – Lucy Treloar

Published January 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route – among them a young artist, Charles – and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.

Stanton’s attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri’s subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the wonderful people at Gallic Press who got in touch with me via email and asked me if I’d be interested in reading a couple of their titles that they thought I would enjoy. The first title was Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar and caught my attention immediately from that beautiful synopsis that instantly made me feel like this book was begging to be read. Well, let me just say that Gallic Press have hit onto a real winner here with what they thought I might like, because I adored everything about this novel. Not only is there an absolutely stellar story within these pages but the novel itself is just so aesthetically pleasing with that gorgeous cover art and the fact that the jacket is slightly rough so you could almost believe you were running your hands through sand (which of course, connects with where our story is set!).

So I have to admit I was already inclined to like this novel on the outside but I’m not so shallow to believe that a pretty front cover is all it takes to make a fascinating story. Here is where I tell you that what is on the inside is just as good as the exterior. It is an epic tale of a large family who leave their home in Adelaide to live in a remote, isolated region of Australia near to some of the native Aboriginal tribes who call it their home. Stanton Finch and his family build their house from scratch, raise animals, live off the land and survive in quite harsh conditions as they enter financial difficulties, suffer their own personal tragedies and learn to co-exist with the native residents of Salt Creek in the mid to late 1800’s.

An integral part of the family is fifteen year old Hester Finch and we see a lot of the narrative through her eyes as she looks out for her younger brothers and sisters, tries to comfort her distressed mother (who did not anticipate leading such an impoverished life) and begins to learn a lot about the people on the land that seem to look so different and have different customs compared to her own family. It is during those years of hardship on their land and as the family’s fortune continues to dwindle that Hester begins to see a new side of some of the members of her family and realises that decisions she has made, in order to protect her family, may not be the best and healthiest decisions after all.

I’d love to say more but I simply can’t! The beauty of this novel is that you really don’t know where it’s going to end up and I was certainly surprised and delighted by some of the more obscure avenues that the author went down that I definitely didn’t expect. There is quite a slow pace at the start but please don’t be put off. Once the family become ensconced at Salt Creek and you get your head round the sheer number of characters in this family, you enter a world of gorgeous story-telling, worrying prejudices and unexpected events that have to be read to be believed. I loved the author’s description of the environment, it was so visceral I could picture everything that Hester sees in my mind and almost feel that oppressive heat on my back. At times, it made for quite tough reading, especially when our characters (either Australian or Aboriginal) go through difficult circumstances and I found some of the attitudes at the time particularly hard to stomach. By the end though, I left it supremely satisfied and almost as if I had gone through that journey myself with Hester and her family, which I can only give credit to Lucy Treloar for as it was she who provided such a rich and emotional reading experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0