3 out of 4 stars
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A novel that piques your interest from the very beginning is the only way to describe Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane! Linnane sets the scene with a prologue that gives the reader just enough to bait them in. With plot twists that are expertly placed and an epilogue that leaves the reader satisfied but could lead to a second novel this is a 3 out of 4 stars read!
Natalie, or Natty, as she is often referred to is a young girl on the brink of adulthood. As she recounts the year of her 16th birthday, you see her grow from a child into a woman. With an abusive stepfather, a seemingly timid and complicate mother, and a less than desired breeding pedigree Natty struggles to find herself. Natalie and her family live on Ironbark Hill, her grandfather’s homestead where everyone pitches in to make sure creditors are paid and there is food on the table. Natty works for a local couple, the Glover’s, as a housekeeper. Once Natalie expresses an interest in art, Mrs. Glover an artist, acts as a mentor not only in art but in life as well. Natty’s home life is vastly different than her work life, for at home Natty is subject to abuse from her stepfather. A hatred so pure and deep, described to perfection, the reader begins to feel the hatred themselves for this man. Will Natalie ever be free of this abusive man and can she make it as an artist?
The attention to detail is one of the first things a reader will notice. The author takes great care in describing the scenery, emotions, and thoughts throughout the book. With vivid imagery in the mind’s eye, the reader feels like they are right there in the book. One key feature of this novel is the amount of detail left to the imagination. A breath of fresh air in today’s society, Linnane give enough detail for the reader to understand what is happening but leaves it up to the imagination to fill in the blanks.
Although the book does not give a specific time period, one can guess this book is dated in the 1800’s by the description of work, housing features, and the makeup of the family unit. One of the more difficult aspect while reading this novel is the language. Set in Australia the author uses local dialect and slang, which forces the reader, unless fluent in Australian culture and language, to research words they may be unfamiliar with. Linnane can also be a bit wordy, using words that don’t necessarily fit the sentence in my opinion, seeming almost as if she put them in there for show.
This book is geared more toward a young adult as there are situations presented that are unsuitable for young teens. I would highly suggest anyone who enjoys historical fiction, learning about other cultures, and coming of age novels read Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane.
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