Review by indepaintence -- Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

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Cleis
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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Review by indepaintence -- Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Cleis » 18 Feb 2019, 16:57

[Following is a volunteer review of "Ironbark Hill" by Jennie Linnane.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane confronts abuse in many forms; domestic, sexual, and child abuse all fold into this engrossing coming-of-age story. The violent themes in the novel are drastically offset by picturesque descriptions of the Australian outback and the guarded yet optimistic narrator, Natalie.

Natalie Chapman comes from a poor farming family in the town of Shannondale, Australia, where she lives with her aging grandfather, gentle mother, alcoholic stepfather, and three younger siblings. Her story is her year of struggle as a 16 year-old girl. She leads readers through her search for the truth about her late father and her fight to liberate her family from her abusive stepfather. Though at times Ironbark Hill is dark, Natalie’s story is lightened by recountings of her mentorship as a young artist and her navigation of puberty and youthful love. Through her narrative of events, readers watch Natalie grow into an autonomous woman despite, or perhaps as a result of, incredible strife.

Jennie Linnane writes with refreshing richness and is a strong world-builder. From the beginning, her writing style impressed me; her phrasing was distinctive and avoided cliche. Linnane’s authorial voice, descriptions of land and season, and character development were three of the most enjoyable aspects of the book for me. Throughout the story readers meet an array of characters which the author sculpts into rounded, nearly tangible presences. She also included a number of female authority figures that I admired as I read, who I looked up to as Natalie did. In this aspect, Ironbark Hill may be a story about the strength of women. There are a few notable moments in which Natalie’s story forces readers into heart-pounding confrontations. In a testament to the author’s storytelling abilities, these are expertly tailored to manipulate the reader’s feelings of fear and protection over Natalie.

Natalie’s story is interrupted by frequent reminders of her sexuality and race, which sometimes combine to exoticize her. I strongly disliked this, and don’t feel this theme was combated by the book as it should have been. Additionally, I was disappointed to see the novel encourage and normalize a relationship between a young girl and a man more than twice her age. Readers should be aware Ironbark Hill contains strong adult themes and graphic violence listed above as well as grooming, rape, racism and racist terms, not all of which are dealt with responsibly. As a result, this book is not for those looking for a relaxing weekend read and should only be read by mature adults.

The arc of the story comes to an assuaging conclusion at the close of the final chapter, but, unfortunately, Ironbark Hill ends with a quick, unsatisfying epilogue. Those who seek happy endings may not be put off by it as I was, but the speed and too-perfect tone cause the epilogue to feel undeveloped and disjointed from Natalie’s story. It might have been a four star book without the rainbow ending that contradicts the tone of the rest of the novel. However, the author’s strong command of language, world-building, and character development have enamored me and many others, raising my rating of Ironbark Hill to 3 out of 4 stars. The novel appears to be professionally edited and has notably few errors.

Reminiscent of Willa Cather's 1918 classic, My Antonia, Ironbark Hill is a captivating story that adds to Linnane's growing repertoire. I recommend this novel to readers with a love of prose and pastoral settings who possess a strong stomach for adult themes.

******
Ironbark Hill
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BelleReadsNietzsche
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Post by BelleReadsNietzsche » 20 Feb 2019, 21:42

This is such a fantastic review. I’ve been interested in Jennie Linnanems writing since sampling her books as BotDs, and it’s great to hear from someone whose opinion I’m quickly coming to highly value how well those impressive qualities are sustained over the course of a full novel. I have a strong feeling that I would find the same strengths and flaws, but I may just check it out anyway. Thank you so much for this detailed and well-written review!
"The bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." -Ratatouille (2007)

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Cleis
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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Cleis » 22 Feb 2019, 13:50

BelleReadsNietzsche wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 21:42
This is such a fantastic review. I’ve been interested in Jennie Linnanems writing since sampling her books as BotDs, and it’s great to hear from someone whose opinion I’m quickly coming to highly value how well those impressive qualities are sustained over the course of a full novel. I have a strong feeling that I would find the same strengths and flaws, but I may just check it out anyway. Thank you so much for this detailed and well-written review!
Thank you for commenting! Linnane's major flaw for me is her navigation of race. You will probably feel the same as I did about the way she discusses the character Johnny Chapman, Natalie's father, who is aboriginal. The phrase "aboriginal blood" is repeated over and over to romanticize him, but there's really no engagement with race or ethnicity beyond that. She comes off as ignorant in that respect. But, she truly is a strong writer and a really impressive wordsmith in many instances. I think it's still worth reading with the knowledge that she has some serious room for improvement. Thank you for stopping by, as always! :D

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Post by Firefawkes » 22 Feb 2019, 16:36

indepaintence wrote:
18 Feb 2019, 16:57
Linnane’s authorial voice, descriptions of land and season, and character development were three of the most enjoyable aspects of the book for me. Throughout the story readers meet an array of characters which the author sculpts into rounded, nearly tangible presences. She also included a number of female authority figures that I admired as I read, who I looked up to as Natalie did. In this aspect, Ironbark Hill may be a story about the strength of women.
This seems to be the redeeming qualities of this book, and I hope to read it to see firsthand the skills of Jennie Linnane's storytelling! I find well-developed characters, when paired with aspiring women role models tend to make for a very good read, which will hopefully make up for the lackluster ending! Thanks for your review :)

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Cleis
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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Cleis » 22 Feb 2019, 21:32

Firefawkes wrote:
22 Feb 2019, 16:36
indepaintence wrote:
18 Feb 2019, 16:57
Linnane’s authorial voice, descriptions of land and season, and character development were three of the most enjoyable aspects of the book for me. Throughout the story readers meet an array of characters which the author sculpts into rounded, nearly tangible presences. She also included a number of female authority figures that I admired as I read, who I looked up to as Natalie did. In this aspect, Ironbark Hill may be a story about the strength of women.
This seems to be the redeeming qualities of this book, and I hope to read it to see firsthand the skills of Jennie Linnane's storytelling! I find well-developed characters, when paired with aspiring women role models tend to make for a very good read, which will hopefully make up for the lackluster ending! Thanks for your review :)
Thank you for the comments! I do feel that those points make up for its downfalls. I hope you enjoy! :techie-studyinggray:

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Post by Zora C Penter » 23 Feb 2019, 21:01

So this one had a fairy-tale ending to a story that clearly wasn't one. I also dislike endings that don't really seem to fit the novel. Since that is the last impression they leave with the readers, authors really need to stick the landing with them. Thank you for your review!

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Cleis
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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Cleis » 24 Feb 2019, 10:55

Zora C Penter wrote:
23 Feb 2019, 21:01
So this one had a fairy-tale ending to a story that clearly wasn't one. I also dislike endings that don't really seem to fit the novel. Since that is the last impression they leave with the readers, authors really need to stick the landing with them. Thank you for your review!
That's a great way to put it. I couldn't agree more! I was left pretty disappointed. :roll2:

Thank you for your comments!

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Post by shereads shereads » 24 Feb 2019, 11:24

Thanks for the review. Very insightful evaluation of the issues with race and the too happy ending. It sounds like the book also had lots of strong points, so it’s a shame they were overshadowed.

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Cleis
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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Cleis » 24 Feb 2019, 11:42

shereads shereads wrote:
24 Feb 2019, 11:24
Thanks for the review. Very insightful evaluation of the issues with race and the too happy ending. It sounds like the book also had lots of strong points, so it’s a shame they were overshadowed.
It does have many strengths! Linnane is a great author. But you're right, those problems do sour the plot of the book. Thank you for your comments!

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Post by ButterscotchCherrie » 01 Mar 2019, 10:18

I enjoy descriptive work, but the insensitive handling of the race issue would put me off. I enjoyed reading your excellently written review.

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Latest Review: Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane

Post by Vanriped » 24 Apr 2019, 18:58

I just finished this book, and was so encouraged to see how your review reflected many of my thoughts. Ms. Linnane was so good at bringing Natalie to life in the main narrative, and I too was disappointed by the cardboard cutout blandness of the happy ending in the epilogue. Thank you for the thoughtfulness and frankness of your review.

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