4 out of 4 stars
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Entering into the sixteenth year of her life, Natalie yearns, and strives, for nothing but a good, happy life. She wishes for her abusive, alcoholic stepfather, Alex, to turn his life around and put her mother out of the constant misery that her life has become. Her aversion for him meets with an equally mutual loathing that Alex has for her. She gets a reprieve from the glum environment at her home by going to work for the Glover family. There she finds tutelage under her employer, Rosemary Glover whom she admires very much. She, sometimes, feels guilty for being attracted to Rosemary’s husband, Bruce Glover. Things become complicated when Bruce reciprocates Natalie’s feelings.
Narrated in the first person by Natalie, Ironbark Hill is a beautifully written novel. The descriptions in the book pay attention to detail and create a distinct image in the reader’s mind. It was neither too flowery nor too intricate. Fluid and engaging, it created an unhindered reading flow. Before I realized, I had already read a hundred pages while it felt like fifty. I was completely under the author’s spell, and the story felt so alive that it was like watching a movie.
The characters of this novel were another feather in the cap of the writer. They were all quite distinct and so intricately written that I could imagine the way they walked, talked and behaved. Every character has been creatively diversified with their own qualities and flaws. With Natalie, we saw a strong girl trying to take responsibility for being the eldest child, trying to be there for her mother and siblings. The author has carefully drawn the contradictions in her character. So, while, in the beginning, she seems pure as gold, her flaws emerge later in the story that lay down the fact that she is human, after all. Even with other characters, we begin to have a certain understanding that make their actions, though loathsome, but justifiable, at times.
The story gets under the skin of the reader, and soon enough, we are emotionally attached. We feel a surge of pity, mixed with anger and hatred when Alex belts Natalie for protecting Libby, her cow. We feel happy when she is happy. We hope with her, and we dream with her. Her character arc takes an ecstatic turn throughout the novel. In the beginning, I had support and liking for her. However, by the end, I was left with mixed feelings about her.
Another thing that I liked was the approach of storytelling. The author has managed a control over the flow of the story, unfolding the events at the precise moments. It was effective in its deliverance of one issue at a time. Every chapter took one topic into focus and wove the events around it. The situations in Natalie’s family, her relationship with her employees, her ambitions, her feelings, everything has been brought to center-stage, one chapter at a time. The realistic setting of the story made it all the more relatable. From the lightest issue of sibling rivalry to the grave matter of domestic violence, the writer has touched all the right chords.
This book is for everyone who likes to read a good story. The teenagers will certainly relate to one or more aspects of Natalie’s life. The adults shouldn’t pass it on, thinking that it is only a teen’s story. It has denser issues at its core and will definitely surprise you with its maturity. My rating for Ironbark Hill is 4 out of 4 stars. Any lesser rating wouldn’t be justifiable because there was not a single flaw that I could find in this book.
This is the first novel I have read in 2018, and I am glad that it turned out perfect. It was well-thought out and perfectly executed. Some scenes were so dense that they’ll have you on the edge of your seat, making you impatiently turn the pages to see how the events finally turn out. The author was careful to clear every knot in the story-line, and honestly, there is nothing that was done wrong in the novel. I highly recommend it to every book-lover.
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