3 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane is a fictitious read covering the tumultuous life of Australian teenager, Natalie. Reaching the milestone age of 16 (often a time when many females begin developing into young women with an optimistic outlook on the future), Natalie is plagued with numerous tribulations many of which are too advanced for such a young girl; she often is forced to juggle countless problems at once. The death of her dad and a younger sibling later seemed to spark the uneasy atmosphere within the family. Now, living with her overbearing and often timid mother, a mentally challenged brother who requires much attention, and an abusive stepfather only scratch the surface of her volatile existence. Farm life is uncertain, requiring Natalie to hold down a job in hopes of keeping the family above poverty level. Additionally, she is often alone--the product of an interracial marriage subjects her to frequent discrimination. Around every corner troubles seem to appear leaving the reader to wonder if this hard-working and humble teenager will ever get the break she deserves, or if her life is prone to commiseration and additional woes.
Linnane’s novel contains a plethora of characters. However, despite the wide range of personalities, age differences, and names, I was able to keep them straight. I really enjoyed the way the author took the time to give life to all persons and make them well-rounded as an individuals. Also, this feature added a lot of depth to the storyline, which is important when a novel contains numerous characters and each one is vitally important to the plot. Additionally, I found the book layout to be very helpful. Every chapter has a name or phrase which coincides with incidences that are relevant to the content. This hint gave me insight to what the chapter entailed prior to reading it.
Consequently, I did not care for the Australian dialogue expressed through the speakers’ voices. Although I assume this type of speech added realism to the setting, I found the tone hard to decipher. The abbreviations, incomplete words, and unfamiliar slang required much re-reading, and many times I still had to make an educated guess regarding what was verbally expressed.
Types of individuals who may enjoy this work are those who find interest in dark fiction. Even though the events expressed in the story are untrue, they contain tangible elements which could very well happen in real life. Many of these aspects are quite unnerving requiring a reader who is not easily shaken to fully endure the drama and appreciate the uneasy stir of emotions. On the other hand, even though the book’s main character is a teenager, I do not believe younger readers would thoroughly enjoy this novel. Much of the content is better situated for an older audience due to the recurrent bleakness. Youth may also fail to understand a large amount of very important innuendo needed for complete comprehension.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The writer did a superb job keeping me engaged through an exciting course of incidents relayed from beginning to end. I also found a great deal of interest in the subplots which added even more entertainment to an already interesting book. Moreover, the exceptional editing was a comforting attribute. However, I found some of the content uncomfortable (life-altering events leading to irreparable emotional damage), speaking from an adult’s point-of-view. Also, it was difficult for me to stomach the corrupt side of a character that I assumed from the start was pure and goodhearted.
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