4 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane is the stunning story of Natalie Chapman, a mixed-race teenager living in Austrailia. Her family lives in squalor, and everyone must do their part to make money for family survival. The antagonist of the novel is Alex, Natalie's drunkard stepfather, and there are numerous conflicts presented throughout the book in which Natalie must think fast to survive. While the life of the family is never easy, there is love and fierce loyalty to one's kin and well-wishers.
Natalie is just recently out of high school at the beginning of the book, and about two years pass over the course of the story. In this time, Natalie works through her issues with her stepfather, learns about her father's demise, develops a complicated relationship with her employer, and protects her simpleton little brother from harm. She also discovers future career opportunities and helps her mother gain her strength to become independent from her abusive husband. This novel is eventful, exciting, and is well paced.
I really enjoyed this book, and parts of it amused me. An unintentional part of this story that I liked was learning about Australia and the culture of Australia. For example, Natalie's birth father is aboriginal, and I had to look up what aboriginal meant. A chuckle I got from the book is when Natalie discusses how hot a specific Christmas holiday was in her youth-it being the beginning of summer and all. I did not realize before this that I have not read many fictional novels from "down under," and I appreciated the change of setting.
This is the April book of the month, and the discussion topics have been quite interesting. It would be difficult to read if the reader has a past history of physical abuse as a child, as this is a main focus of the book. Another sensitive topic discussed is sexual abuse, and adults engaging in sexual acts with a minor. Again, this perception is based on United States laws, but it was difficult to shake my understanding of the laws I know.
I give Ironbark Hill 4 out of 4 stars, for the wonderful pacing, no grammatical or spelling errors, and compelling content material. This book was realistic and helped me identify strongly with the main character. I would recommend this book to a mature reader (due to excessive violence and graphic scenes) ready for a fictional memoir with a powerful message and wonderful ending.
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