4 out of 4 stars
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IRONBARK HILL By Jennie Linnane
This story begins with the main character, Natalie’s retelling of the events of her life beginning with the most momentous parts of her sixteen year old self. The story takes place in Australia and, she gives the most in depth descriptions of her everyday life and the surrounding landscape which finds its way onto the canvas of her paintings.
Natalie lives with her maternal Grandfather, Mother Irma, Step Dad Alex and, three siblings. She has a cow that she is very fond of and has a primary place in the story line. Natalie is at odds with her stepfather due to his wanting to sell the cherished cow for, in his opinion, much needed cash. While the story does center on this fact we are brought up to speed on other aspects of this family’s life which is turbulent at best due to the disdain the characters Alex and Natalie have for each other.
While Natalie’s life is no bed of roses she does manage to find snippets of happiness and does find love in what would otherwise be a lonely life for a teenage girl living in less than desirable conditions. (She shares crowded quarters with her three siblings). She wants to be an artist one day and spends her free time taking lessons from Rosemary Glover, and sketching the landscape around Ironbark Hill.
This novel is an example of how family dynamics come into play in blended families. Natalie and Alex are constantly at odds throughout the story. It points out how a girl growing up without her natural Father can be sorely missed when the girl approaches young womanhood and is not shown the necessary nurturing at such a crucial time. With the constant care and affection from Irma, Natalie is able to accomplish her dreams while never straying too far away from her Mother and Ironbark Hill.
I rate this book a 4 out of 4 because it is very compelling when read from the perspective of a sixteen year old and how she must have felt at that time. There is a closeness with her family that shows unity even when times are not the best. I really love the style of writing and the story makes one have empathy for Natalie. Even though fiction is not my usual choice to read, the author told a very realistic tale and even with the portrayal of the way English is spoken in Australia, it just added to the realism for me. I highly recommend Ironbark Hill to audiences young and old.
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