4 out of 4 stars
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I was given a gift copy of this book for review
Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane
This book follows the life of a young girl named Natalie as she is coming of age. She is the oldest daughter in an extremely dysfunctional, poverty-stricken family in Australia. In addition to poverty, she has an abusive alcoholic stepfather, racial prejudice due to her mixed heritage and the loss of her real father which is shrouded in secrecy. She has a rough and rocky road that has many obstacles that would shake most of us to our core. This book delves into the family relationship where the daughter feels responsible for caring for her mothers' emotional and physical needs as well as protecting her from the abusive stepfather. Natalie is a caregiver in every sense of the word, she not only assumes the care of her mother she also is the caregiver for her siblings and blames herself when anything goes wrong with them.
This writer has an amazing gift for bringing not only characters to life but also the surroundings and environment without being wordy or boring. I have never been to Australia but I felt as if I had after reading this book. I was impressed with how the writer was able to paint word pictures that left the reader with a clear impression of the homestead that was slowly falling apart from neglect by her stepfather as her grandfather was no longer able to do the work required to maintain it. She cleverly brought out the beauty of Australia as well as she learns to paint and has an artist's eye for the countryside.
What I liked most about the book was how she brought out the family dynamics of this extremely dysfunctional family without sugar coating it or making it seem better then it was. I think people that have suffered abuse or grown up in severely dysfunctional homes will really understand the family dynamics at work here and those that did not will come away with a new understanding.
Natalie makes some choices that are surprising and could be concerning to some readers. She has an affair with the husband of her boss and mentor, but in fairness to Natalie, the affair was initiated by him not her, though she takes full responsibility for it as she does with everything. In the end, she has a crisis of faith and rejects her religion. I thought that was a shame because I think many that struggle to overcome this kind of abuse finds some strength in their faith in God. While reading this book I laughed and cried and got angry and it was a roller coaster ride of many emotions.
I completely enjoyed reading this book and for this reason and for the fact the book was well proofread and I found no errors
I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
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