4 out of 4 stars
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Ironbark Hill by Jennie Linnane will not disappoint. This story is both heartbreaking and captivating. Natalie Chapman reflects back on the pivotal year she turned 17. Natalie emerges from an insecure teen to a confident young woman. As the year goes on the family secrets start to slowly unfold.
The story begins with Natalie’s Grandfather Elphic growing too old for farm work. His property known as Ironbark Hill is then passed down to his son-in-law, Alex Townsend. Alex’s drinking problems and poor management skills lead to the farm's deterioration. Not only does he destroy the farm, but he also terrorizes his family after drinking moonshine. This story closely follows a year in the life of Natalie Chapman, Alex’s stepdaughter. Natalie fiercely defends her mother and brother from Alex. She takes a cleaning job for Bruce and Rosemary Glover at Riverview to help put food on the table. She knows exactly what she wants in life and that is to be a landscape painter and teacher. Rosemary Glover, a local artist, helps her work toward this goal. Natalie seeks to find the truth about her deceased Father, Johnny Chapman. Will she find the answers? How will Natalie survive her stepdad’s constant abuses? Will she find peace and happiness?
The scenery described is magnificent. The author paints a gorgeous picture of rural Australia. You can almost see the barren earth and the blue/green forests of she-oak and gum trees. You can smell the pine needles crunching underfoot and hear the kookaburras calling in the morning. Sit back and watch the sunlight hit the fence posts at the Riley Creek Ranch. From start to finish, this novel is full of beautiful imagery.
I found the dialog to be enjoyable and charming. The regional accents and local phrases bring the story to life. The author has done an overall exceptional job. My favorite part about Ironbark Hill is Natalie’s character and her unbelievable strength. Each character has their own set of challenges in this harsh rural life. Natalie faces those challenges and moves forward with confidence. She makes swift decisions when it comes to matters of the heart and protecting the ones she loves.
I rate this book 4 out of 4. I had a little bit of trouble getting interested in the first couple chapters, but that quickly passed. This story is an unforgettable gem. I would strongly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a descriptive, well-written story about a family’s struggle to survive.
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